William Eichler 13 October 2016

Councils failing to fund HIV testing

The majority of councils in areas with a high prevalence of HIV do not fund all GP surgeries to test patients despite expert advice.

New research carried out for BBC Radio 4's You and Yours programme revealed 70% of local authorities in high prevalence areas in England do not fund all GP surgeries to test patients.

It also found that 82% of hospitals in high-prevalence areas in England were not offering HIV tests in accordance with guidance.

Guidelines issued by the British HIV Association (BHIVA) in 2013 state that in high prevalence areas all men and women should be offered an HIV test on registration with a GP or when they are admitted to hospital.

A high prevalence area is anywhere where two or more people in every 1,000 are diagnosed with the virus. 54 out of the 152 local authorities with public health responsibilities are in high prevalence areas.

Experts argue routine testing for the virus could help prevent avoidable deaths.

In England, it is the responsibility of local authorities to make the funding available for population-based HIV testing.

Chairman of the Local Government Association's Community Wellbeing Board, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, said: 'Councils are commissioning HIV testing in a variety of settings, which does not always have to be in GP surgeries or hospitals.

'In some areas, it may be more appropriate and easier to reach out to people by providing tests in the community or at sexual health clinics.

'New technology has also made HIV testing more responsive to how people live their lives.

'For example, councils in partnership with Public Health England have launched the first nationally available HIV home-sampling kit for testing those at high risk.'

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