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Nurses to be required to carry out more HIV tests

Tuesday 28th March 2017
Nurses in the UK will have extra HIV tests to carry out after NICE calls for them to be offered to patients more routinely. Image: EiMiguelacho via iStock
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    Nurses are set to be required to carry out an increased number of HIV tests after the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published a new draft quality standard recommending that these tests should be offered to patients more routinely.

    NICE believes that offering HIV tests to adults and young people (16 to 18 year olds who have disclosed that they are sexually active) could see more cases of the life-threatening infection diagnosed early, allowing people to begin accessing treatment sooner and preventing the disease's spread.

    The healthcare body wants to see adults living in areas known to have a high prevalence of HIV offered a test for the illness upon registering with a new GP, when admitted to hospital or when having a blood test if they have not already been tested within the last 12 months.

    Currently, there are 20 local authority areas in the UK classed as having an extremely high HIV prevalence, including 18 London boroughs, as well as Manchester and Brighton and Hove. Meanwhile, 54 areas including Leeds, Newcastle and Birmingham have a high prevalence.

    Altogether, some 11.6 million people live in these areas, so offering routine HIV tests to those who could have been unknowingly exposed to the infection by a sexual partner could lead to the early diagnosis and subsequent treatment of potentially thousands of previously undetected cases of the disease.

    Statistics show that approximately 100,000 UK residents were HIV positive as of 2015, but around 13,500 of these individuals do not even know that they have the illness, meaning they could unwittingly be passing it on to their loved ones.

    Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive and director of health and social care at NICE, commented: "There can be stigma and fear around having an HIV test. This needs to change so that HIV testing is seen as routine practice. This new draft quality standard sets out clear, practical steps to help encourage and increase the uptake of HIV testing."

    A consultation on these draft quality standards will now take place, ending on Friday April 21st. A final standard will then be published by NICE this August.

    Written by James Puckle

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