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New ED testing programme identifying previously untreated HIV and Hepatitis C

This World Hepatitis Day, The Royal London Hospital Emergency Department reports promising results from its innovative HIV and Hepatitis C (HCV) testing programme which started earlier this year.

In its first 3 months, 25 patients with untreated Hepatitis C (HCV) and 5 patients with untreated HIV have been identified through the programme and, as a result, are now receiving the correct care and treatment.

The department offers opt-out tests for HIV and HCV to all adult patients having blood tests whilst in their care, enabling patients who don’t routinely undertake sexual health tests to be assessed. The programme can mean earlier diagnosis and treatment for patients, which can improve outcomes.

Professor Graham Foster, Consultant Hepatologist at The Royal London Hospital, said: “It is encouraging to see that we have identified such a large number of patients with untreated HCV. These patients will avoid the complications of untreated HCV which include progression to liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.”

HIV and HCV are preventable diseases which are now easily treatable. People living with HIV who are diagnosed and treated early can expect to live a normal life with a near normal life expectancy. Once on treatment, they cannot pass the virus on to others.

Directly-acting antiviral treatments for HCV are short, oral treatments with few side effects which successfully cure more than 95 per cent of patients. Deaths due to HIV have decreased, and HCV related deaths and liver cancers are falling due to better treatments. However, nearly 40 per cent of people with HIV and 50 per cent with HCV are diagnosed late, which can result in significant ill health and higher death rates.

Professor Chloe Orkin, HIV Consultant, said: “We are pleased to see that after only three months of testing, we have been able to identify and treat so many individuals with previously untreated HIV and Hepatitis C. This shows that testing in the Emergency Department is worthwhile and beneficial for our patients.”

John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “Untreated Hepatitis C can lead to a wide range of serious illnesses, but there are new easy to take treatments that can cure the disease in the majority of people. That’s why schemes that help people get faster access to the treatment they need are so important and it’s a positive step forward that we now have testing for both HIV and Hepatitis in our local Emergency department. This simple test will increase early detection and will help people to live a happy and healthy life.”

Barts Health NHS Trust, which runs The Royal London Hospital, has spearheaded several HIV testing initiatives in recent years, becoming one of the first NHS Trusts in the country to offer routine HIV testing in the Critical Care Unit at The Royal London Hospital in 2014. The Emergency Department is now the second in the country to provide opt-out testing. 

For more information on The Royal London Hospital Emergency Department testing visit: https://alleast.nhs.uk/hiv

 

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