London Health Service Begins Offering Rapid HIV TestsBarts and the London NHS Trust has become the first National Health Service provider in the United Kingdom to offer rapid, oral HIV tests, BBC News reports. Officials hope that the service will increase the number of people who seek testing because requirements of giving blood and waiting for test results are eliminated with the rapid tests.
Barts will offer the rapid, oral tests in non-health care settings such as outreach centers. In addition, sexual health workers hope to be able to offer the test in night clubs in the future. About 200 people in Barts clinics have received rapid tests since March, and officials hope to test 250 people monthly. Merle Symonds, the sexual health adviser at the trust, said the message that HIV is a treatable disease has not "filtered through and stigma does remain around HIV, even if it is waning." Lisa Power of the Terrence Higgins Trust -- an HIV/AIDS organization that also offers rapid, oral tests -- said that a major problem surrounding HIV/AIDS in the United Kingdom is that many people are not aware of their status. She added, "Anything we can do to increase the take-up of testing is welcome, and we think what Barts is doing is fantastic."
According to BBC News, the United Kingdom has the largest number of people living with HIV in Western Europe, with men who have sex with men accounting for 41% of new cases. BBC News reports that approximately one-third of HIV-positive people in the country are not aware of their status (BBC News, 5/20). This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.