NAT has launched a new report outlining steps to increase HIV testing at a time of financial pressure on the NHS.

‘HIV Testing Action Plan – to reduce late HIV diagnosis in the UK’, was released this week by the National AIDS Trust.

HIV testing is at the heart of any effective strategy to tackle HIV in the UK. The number of people living with HIV in the UK will this year reach 100,000, 25% of whom are unaware of their infection.

Statistics show that half of all adults with HIV are diagnosed late (defined as being after the point at which treatment should have started), which significantly increases the chances of ill health and an earlier death.

NAT said failure to diagnose people early has a harmful effect on public with over half of all HIV transmissions are from people who are undiagnosed.

Intensified testing efforts, are necessary to counter the number of people with HIV, which will otherwise continue to increase, it said. More uptake of HIV testing saves the NHS money through reduced illness amongst those diagnosed in good time and a reduced rate of new transmissions.

In England, the reorganisation of the NHS as a result of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 raises particular challenges for HIV testing, since there has been an increase in the number of different bodies responsible for commissioning HIV testing services.

NAT recommended a proactive and integrated strategy to improve HIV testing and halve late HIV diagnosis in order to not to see fragmentation of services and a worsening in HIV testing rates.

Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of NAT, said: “As health budgets are squeezed across the country, it’s more important than ever for government, health commissioners and providers to recognise that HIV testing is extremely cost-effective – and saves money to the NHS purse in the long-term.

“NAT’s HIV Testing Action Plan makes the case for planning and investment in HIV testing to both national and local decision-makers. ‘With local authorities taking over responsibility for public health, we make recommendations which we believe assist those with new public health responsibilities to reduce undiagnosed HIV and late diagnosis.

“HIV testing needs to be provided on an opt-out basis in a much wider range of healthcare settings. At present it is a scandal that most people with HIV are living for at least five years undiagnosed and that many repeatedly attend healthcare without any recommendation of an HIV test, and with testing guidelines ignored by many healthcare professionals.”

To read the report, click here.