A new pilot scheme will see GP practices routinely testing all new patients for HIV in a bid to improve early detection.
Patients registering at any of the 10 participating GP practices in Coventry will be offered a simple finger prick blood test and get the results in less than a minute.
The pilot, commissioned by Coventry City Council and partners including Birmingham City University and the local trust sexual health service, is going to be evaluated by researchers to explore whether the model could be expanded more widely.
It comes as NICE has recommended that all areas with an HIV prevalence of over two per 1,000 population should increase access to testing, especially in primary care settings, and this model in particular was proposed by a GP sexual health expert.
Birmingham City University associate dean of research and enterprise Professor Alex Kendall said there were ‘two key motivations’ behind the ‘exciting initiative’.
He said: Firstly, we need to understand how effective offering this simple test is in reducing late diagnoses of HIV and secondly, we need to understand what people and health professionals think about offering testing in this way, in order to make sure we are offering the test in the right way.’
Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust sexual health consultant Dr Satyajit Das pointed out that the early detection of HIV has the potential to make a huge differenceboth in reducing rates of transmission and for ensuring the long term health of patients carrying the virus.
He said that despite medication now being very effective at keeping the condition at bay, ‘over half’ of newly-diagnosed patients in Coventry between 2011 and 2013 were diagnosed at such a late stage that they were more likely to suffer severe health complications or even death.
He said: ‘Quite simply, HIV is not the illness it used to be. For thousands of people who have been given a positive diagnosis, HIV is now similar in many ways to other long-term conditions such as high blood pressure, but it is crucial that people come forward for testing.’