Sir James Duddridge KCMG, Member of Parliament for Rochford and Southend East, has welcomed a landmark investment in new HIV testing funds for Southend Hospital.
Ahead of World AIDS Day on Friday 1st December, the new Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Rt. Hon Victoria Atkins MP, has announced that the government will be rolling out an innovative new HIV testing approach to all areas with a high prevalence of HIV, including Southend.
The announcement follows the incredible success of opt-out testing in Accident and Emergency departments in London, Brighton, Blackpool and Manchester. Nearly 1,000 people have been found with HIV and a further more than 3,000 with hepatitis B and C, in just 18 months in four cities.
Sir James wrote to the Health Secretary following her appointment to highlight the success of the opt-out testing programme and call for funds for Southend. Sir James stressed his commitment to ending new cases of HIV in Southend and highlighted the need for this new approach in Southend Hospital.
As a result of this investment, everyone who has a blood test in Southend Hospital’s Accident and Emergency department and 45 more across the country will be tested for HIV and hepatitis, unless they ask not to be. Opt-out HIV testing helps tackle shocking rates of late diagnosis, with more than 4 in 10 people nationally still being diagnosed late. Those diagnosed in Accident and Emergency departments are more likely to be of Black ethnicity, women and older than those diagnoses in sexual health departments.
The nearly £20 million of funding announced this week will lead to a tripling of the number of HIV tests done in England next year. This is crucial for finding the 4,400 people living with undiagnosed HIV in England, who are twice as likely to live outside of London. Opt-out HIV testing in Southend Hospital’s Accident and Emergency department will turbo-charge local efforts to find these people.
Terrence Higgins Trust, the UK’s leading HIV and sexual health charity, has been calling for this expansion – saying it will be essential to meet the Government’s goal of ending new HIV cases by 2030.
Commenting on the announcement, Sir James said:
“Opt-out HIV testing in Accident and Emergency departments saves lives, saves money and relieves pressure on the National Health Service. I am delighted that Southend Hospital is set to be receiving additional funding to increase HIV testing. This approach is exactly what is needed to find the undiagnosed and end new cases of HIV by 2030. I am determined that Southend plays our part in making that goal a reality.”
Richard Angell, Chief Executive of Terrence Higgins Trust said:
“Today’s announcement is the testing turbo boost we need if we are to end new HIV cases by 2030. It’s hugely significant that an additional two million HIV tests will be carried out in A&Es over the next year thanks to a temporary but wholesale expansion of opt-out HIV testing to 46 additional hospitals. With this landmark investment, opt-out HIV testing in A&Es will account for more than half of all tests in England. This major ramping up of testing is absolutely crucial to find the 4,400 people still living with undiagnosed HIV.”