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NICE urges healthcare organisations to ‘normalise’ HIV testing

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NICE has released new guidance to support greater awareness of HIV testing. For the first time this guidance has been produced with Public Health England (PHE).

The guideline recommends that HIV testing is offered across GP practices, hospitals and A&E wards based on local prevalence.

Where there is high prevalence, it recommends that anyone who does not have a previous diagnosis of HIV should have a test when registering at a new GP practice or having a blood test.

Self-sampling tests should also be considered in communities with high prevalence.

The guideline says home self-sampling shows great promise, especially as a way to engage people less likely to visit services.

Data from a self-sampling service PHE runs with local authorities showed that 32% of those tested had never had an HIV test before.

Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive of NICE, said that the guidance aims to ‘normalise’ HIV testing, so it is not viewed any differently from any other blood test.

‘We would like all NHS and community services to think about HIV testing and see what they can do to ensure their organisation can put in place the comprehensive HIV testing we recommend in our new guideline,’ she added.

The new guideline focuses on strategies to reduce barriers to HIV testing such as advertising testing in locations that offer tests, for example through posters in a GP practice.

The guidance also provides a series of pointers to help organisations implement the guidance.

These include carrying out baseline assessments to ascertain current gaps in provision and developing an action plan to address these gaps. It also recommends appointing a lead who has an interest in HIV to motivate and advise other members of staff, and to oversee the implementation of the action plan.

Dr Ann Sullivan consultant physician HIV/GUM at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and member of the guideline development group, said: ‘Making this a routine part of standard care for all patients in these settings will begin to normalise HIV testing and hopefully reduce the unacceptably high rates of late diagnosis we still see in the UK.’

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