27 March 2017

HIV testing should be seen as routine practice, says NICE

People living in areas with a high prevalence of HIV should routinely be offered HIV tests during healthcare appointments as outlined by NICE.

The new quality standard aims to improve the uptake of HIV testing among adults (aged 18 and over) and young people (aged 16 and 17 years) who may have undiagnosed HIV.

Professor Gillian Leng, Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Health and Social Care at NICE, said: “There can be stigma and fear around having an HIV test.  This needs to change so that HIV testing is seen as routine practice.  This new quality standard sets out clear, practical steps to help encourage and increase the uptake of HIV testing.”

Statements in the quality standard include:

  • Young people and adults are offered an HIV test when admitted to hospital or attending an emergency department in areas of extremely high HIV prevalence, or when having a blood test when admitted to hospital or attending an emergency department in areas of high HIV prevalence.
  • Young people and adults in areas of high or extremely high HIV prevalence are offered an HIV test by their GP practice when registering or when having a blood test if they have not had an HIV test in the past 12 months.

There are 20 local authority areas with an extremely high prevalence of HIV, 18 of which are in London including Lambeth and City of London. The local authorities outside of London are Manchester and Brighton and Hove. The population within these 20 local authorities is around 3.7 million people.

There are 54 local authority areas where HIV rates are classed as high, including Luton, Birmingham, Southampton and Newcastle, covering a population of around 8.5 million people.

Increasing the uptake of HIV testing among people living in areas with a high or extremely high HIV prevalence is important to reduce late diagnosis. Early diagnosis improves treatment outcomes and reduces the risk of transmission to other people. By offering HIV testing in these settings, it will help to reduce the stigma associated with HIV and ensure that an HIV test is regarded as routine.                   

In 2015, around 100,000 people in the UK were living with HIV, including an estimated 13,500 people who were unaware of their infection. In England, 39% of adults newly diagnosed as living with HIV were diagnosed at a late stage of infection.

UPDATE – Following a public consultation that ran from 27 March 2017 to 21 April 2017, the final quality standard published on 7 September 2017.

This new quality standard sets out clear, practical steps to help encourage and increase the uptake of HIV testing.

Professor Gillian Leng, Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Health and Social Care at NICE