King’s College Hospital is routinely to screen patients for HIV after a pilot scheme found 32 new cases of the condition.
A twelve-month pilot was launched at the Camberwell hospital in 2016 to tackle the frequency of late HIV diagnoses in Southwark and Lambeth – which have been identified as having the highest prevalence of the condition in the UK.
A total of 24,037 adults requiring a blood test in the hospital’s emergency department were screened for the condition.
Around half of those who tested positive were considered late diagnoses and would have been at high risk of developing AIDS, which would have significantly lowered their life expectancy had they not have been started on antiretroviral medication.
Those diagnosed with HIV have been given support and advice, and put on treatment plans to manage their condition.
Three patients who had previously been diagnosed but had not received any follow-up care were also put on treatment programmes.
The testing initiative, which was launched thanks to a funding grant from the Elton John AIDS Foundation, will now continue indefinitely at the hospital.
Dr Killian Quinn, a consultant in sexual health at King’s, said the test was quick and easy, with results available within a few days, meaning patients can be put on medication immediately.
“When HIV is detected and treated early, antiretroviral medication can be so effective the virus can become undetectable in some patients, meaning they can no longer pass the virus on to others,” said Dr Quinn.
“With the sophisticated medicines now available, HIV is no longer a death sentence but a treatable condition.
“One of the most common reasons people develop complications is because they don’t know they have the infection.”
A person, who was diagnosed in March 2017 as a result of the test, added: “Initially, I was in shock but the sexual health team at King’s have been incredibly supportive and talked me through everything.
“Nine months on and I’m feeling much better, and thanks to the antiviral medication my HIV infection is at an undetectable level.
“Getting diagnosed early has given me a second chance, and helped me avoid a situation worse that being infected with HIV – being responsible for passing it onto someone else.”
To find out where to get a free HIV test visit