Test for HIV whenever blood is taken to stamp out new cases by 2030, campaigners say

Around 5,900 people in England are estimated to be living with undiagnosed HIV (Image: Getty)

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People should be tested for HIV whenever blood is taken to stamp out new cases in the next decade, campaigners have urged.

A new report from the HIV Commission called for testing to become standard practice when registering for a GP, at routine smear exams, in pharmacies and in A&E to meet the Government's target of ending transmission in England by 2030.

Recent data from Public Health England shows nearly 550,000 eligible people last year were not tested for HIV in sexual health clinics alone.

Half of those people (46%) were not offered a test, while the other half refused to take one.

Around 5,900 people in England are estimated to be living with undiagnosed HIV, increasing their risk of unwittingly passing it on to others.

Campaigners say people should be tested for HIV whenever they have blood tests, such as in GP surgeries, pharmacies and A&E
(Image: Getty Images)

Ahead of World Aids Day on December 1, the Commission called for everyone to know their HIV status to make the population more conscious of transmission.

And they want everyone to be offered tests regardless of gender, ethnicity or sexuality to reduce stigma around getting tested.

"Zero new HIV cases in England by 2030 isn't a pipe dream or social media-friendly date plucked from the air – it’s 100% achievable," said Dame Inga Beale, Chair of the HIV Commission.

"Our vision for 2030 is a realistic one. It will require a significant increase in funding to enable the much needed step change in HIV testing across our healthcare systems, but will save our NHS money in the long run.

"Because only by testing everyone – regardless of ethnicity, gender or sexuality – can we truly normalise testing for HIV and make it a standard part of everyday healthcare."

Opt-out testing for HIV is already routine for pregnant women, with around 99% testing coverage.

This has led to almost no babies being born with HIV in England in recent years.

Ministers were urged to commit to an 80% reduction in new diagnoses by 2025, which would see cases drop from 2,861 in 2019 to fewer than 600 in five years’ time.

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Sir Elton John, a long-time campaigner, said there was a chance for England to become the first country in the world to end new cases of HIV.

He said: "Making HIV testing available and normalised throughout the health service not only means people can be treated but by testing becoming routine, this removes some of the stigma that’s holding us back."

Labour frontbencher Wes Streeting said ministers should apply the lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic around the benefits of regular testing.

"Test and trace is the key to ending Covid-19 pandemic; the same is true of the HIV epidemic," he told the Mirror.

"Learning of a HIV positive diagnosis is undoubtedly shocking news but the virus is not what it was in the 1980s and 1990s.

"The quicker you get diagnosed the better your health, most people living with HIV having a normal life expectancy.

"For 5,900 undiagnosed people in England, a positive test will be life changing. Find them is also the key to stopping the virus being passed on."

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