HIV screening session raises awareness of early testing

HIV screening session raises awareness of early testing

GPs and health professionals took part in a workplace HIV screening session on Friday (24 November) as part of National HIV Testing Week. 

Twenty-eight people were tested at the session, which aimed to raise awareness of the simple and effective ‘point of care HIV test’ as well as the importance of early screening for HIV.

It also marked the launch of a year-long programme focused on increasing screening rates in the borough, raising awareness of the importance of early diagnosis and tackling the stigma surrounding HIV. 

Councillor Clive Furness, mayoral advisor for adults and health, joined Newham GPs, staff from NHS Newham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and representatives from local HIV organisations for the session. Staff from Positive East, a local HIV charity, were on hand to discuss the testing and results. 

Cllr Furness said: “This screening session provided a valuable opportunity to find out more about HIV in the borough and the importance of screening before people have further voluntary tests. This approach will enable us to detect newly infected people and reduce transmission to others.” 

HIV prevalence in Newham is high and about 40% of HIV diagnoses are classified as ‘late’ which means patients are diagnosed with advanced HIV with a severely damaged immune system. People diagnosed late are ten times more likely to die within a year of diagnosis. Up to 75% of those diagnosed late will have seen their GP in the three years leading up to diagnosis, often with signs and symptoms related to HIV infection. 

Dr James Stevenson, clinical lead for HIV for the CCG, said “We know that screening and testing early is key to supporting patients to manage HIV as a long-term condition. In Newham we want to ensure we don’t miss opportunities to test for HIV when patients arrive at the surgery with tell-tale signs. 

“As well as supporting the NHS to manage demand and the impact of late diagnosis on services, screening also helps prevent the spread of HIV. We really hope that through our programme of work we can help tackle the stigma of HIV and reach people early enough to support them to live long and fulfilling lives.”