A new testing programme is launching in Newham Hospital’s A&E department this week. The opt-out programme is providing tests for both HIV and Hepatitis C (HCV) to all adults who come to Newham Hospital’s A&E and need a blood test as part of their care.
The aim of the programme is to reach individuals who have not previously been tested for either condition; who may not be aware that they are at risk; or who don’t have routine access to HIV or HCV testing. Doing this means individuals can be diagnosed and treated before they become unwell and complications develop. And it can stop the spread of these infections to others, as well as work to normalise testing for both conditions.
Dr Emma Young, an Emergency Medicine Consultant and the lead for this programme at Newham Hospital said: “The number of people in the Borough of Newham with either HIV or Hepatitis C is higher than the national average. We know that many people do not know they have these diseases and so they are not currently receiving the treatment they need. We also know that treating HIV/ Hepatitis C infections not only helps those who have the infection, but also stops them spreading to others. Our hope is that this new programme will help ensure people in our community are diagnosed and given the treatment they need sooner and make testing for HIV and Hepatitis C become more ‘normal’ for all patients and staff.
Patients will be informed that they will be tested for both HIV and HCV when their blood is being taken, and they will have the opportunity to opt-out and decline to be tested. If you don’t hear from anyone, you don’t need to worry – as the old mantra says, no news is good news. If your test comes back positive, you will be contacted by a member of the clinical team who will discuss your treatment options with you.
There have been huge advances in the treatment and care of HIV and HCV in recent years, but getting diagnosed early is still a crucial first step in treating these conditions. 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, a large proportion of people with HIV or HCV are diagnosed late, which can result in significant ill health and higher death rates.
The results of those who are tested in this programme will be anonymously uploaded to a Hepatitis C registry that monitors levels of the virus at a population level. HIV data will be held centrally by the Trust in an anonymous manner. All data (i.e. test results) will be held and managed in accordance with GDPR guidelines and regulations. This programme also previously ran at The Royal London Hospital where it proved successful. For more details on other ways to get tested for sexually transmitted infections, please visit the All East website.