28 March 2017

HIV Testing Should be Seen as Routine Practice, Says NICE in New Draft Quality Standard

Millions of people could be offered HIV tests during routine appointments as outlined by NICE.

The new draft quality standard aims to improve the uptake of HIV testing among adults (aged 18 and over) and young people (aged 16-18) who may have undiagnosed HIV. This would mean they could have timely treatment to reduce the risk of onward transmission.

Professor Gillian Leng, Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Health and Social Care at NICE, said: “There can be stigma and fear around having an HIV test.  This needs to change so that HIV testing is seen as routine practice.  This new draft quality standard sets out clear, practical steps to help encourage and increase the uptake of HIV testing.”

The draft quality standard has six statements, including:

  • Adults and young people in extremely high prevalence areas are offered an HIV test when admitted to hospital, or attending an emergency department. There are 20 local authority areas with extremely high prevalence of HIV including Manchester, Brighton and Hove and 18 London boroughs, with total populations of 3.7 million people.
  • Adults and young people in high or extremely high prevalence areas are offered an HIV test by their GP when registering or when having a blood test if they have not had an HIV test in the last 12 months. There are 54 local authority areas where HIV rates are classed as high, including Leeds, Birmingham and Newcastle, covering around 7.9 million                   

Increasing the uptake of HIV testing among people living in areas with a high or extremely high HIV prevalence is important to reduce late diagnosis. Early diagnosis improves treatment outcomes and reduces the risk of transmission to other people. By offering HIV testing in these settings, it will help to reduce the stigma associated with HIV and ensure that an HIV test is regarded as routine.                   

In 2015, around 100,000 people in the UK were living with HIV, including an estimated 13,500 people who were unaware of their infection. In England, 39% of adults newly diagnosed as living with HIV were diagnosed at a late stage of infection.

The consultation will close on Friday 21 April. The final quality standard is due to publish in August 2017.