GPs will be encouraged to offer HIV tests to all at-risk patients as part of a Department of Health drive to improve early diagnosis of the disease.
NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh said that testing is straightforward and it is ‘within the competence’ of GPs to deliver the results to patients.
In a letter to all medical directors sent last week, Sir Bruce said that HIV tests should be offered to patients who present with possible clinical symptoms linked to HIV or who fall into groups that are at increased risk – such as gay and bisexual men and African communities.
The letter said: ‘Offering an HIV test is within the competence of all healthcare professionals and the requirement for lengthy pre-test counselling was dropped many years ago.
‘Giving a positive result to a patient should be within the competence of all doctors, just as it is for any other serious life-long health condition.’
His message is timed to coincide with National HIV Testing Week run by HIV charity the Terrence Higgins Trust from 23 to 30 November.
Sir Bruce added: ‘HIV testing today is quick and straightforward and we know from research that offering an HIV test is acceptable to the wider population.’
He said that all doctors should be ‘alert to the benefits of HIV testing to both individuals and the wider public health.’