On World Aids Day Southampton councillor calls or action to drive down undiagnosed HIV in the city

On World Aids Day Southampton councillor calls or action to drive down undiagnosed HIV in the city

This World Aids Day (December 1, 2022), a Southampton councillor is calling for more action to be taken to drive down rates of undiagnosed HIV.

Cllr Lorna Fielker, Cabinet Member for Health, Adults and Leisure  has called for HIV testing to be done whenever blood is taken in Southampton General Hospital’s accident & emergency department.

Cllr Fielker has written to Rishi Sunak’s newly appointed Health Secretary, Steve Barclay, to ask for the funding necessary for what’s known as ‘opt-out’ testing for HIV at University of Southampton Hospitals (USH) as Southampton is classed as an area of high HIV prevalence.

The Terrence Higgins Trust, the UK’s leading HIV and sexual health charity, believes that this proactive approach to HIV testing is crucial for achieving the Government’s goal of ending new HIV cases by 2030. It will also help to tackle shocking rates of late diagnosis, with more than 4 in 10 people nationally still being diagnosed at a late stage. This is bad for the individual’s health and also means they could unwittingly pass on HIV to partners.

Cllr Fielker action comes after the results of the first 100 days of opt-out HIV testing in areas classed as having ‘very high’ HIV prevalence were released, including for areas including London, Blackpool, Brighton and Manchester. In just 100 days – thanks to £20 million funding from Government – relevant A&Es diagnosed 102 people with HIV, as well as finding a further 60 people who knew they were HIV positive but weren’t engaged with services. Cllr Fielker wants to see the same progress achieved in Southampton.

Those diagnosed via opt-out testing in accident and emergency were more like to be heterosexual, women and of Black ethnicity than those diagnosed in sexual health departments. These results mean the initiative has already paid for itself as those with undiagnosed will likely present with a complication relating to HIV at a later date – and add additional cost to the health system.But currently there is no funding or a plan for tackling undiagnosed HIV in the next tier of need where prevalence is high, including for Southampton.

Cllr Fielker said: “There are more than 5,000 people living with undiagnosed HIV in the UK – and Southampton is a high HIV prevalence area. This calls for a tried, tested and overdue approach to be adopted in Southampton – opt-out HIV testing in UHS. That’s why I’ve written to the health secretary to call on central government to listen to the evidence, fund routine HIV testing in our Emergency Department and protect local people’s health.”

Richard Angell, Campaigns Directors at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “We need to remember those 38 million people domestically and globally that have been lost to an AIDS-related illness and redouble our efforts to end new cases of HIV. Get it right and we could be the first country in the world end new HIV transmissions. A crucial part of that is increasing HIV testing and we urgently need that to be expanded to places like Southamton and all other areas with high prevalence of HIV.”


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