Tens of thousands of patients were tested for HIV in our emergency departments last year, thanks to an opt-out scheme that aims to ensure people who have the virus get the support they need quickly. 

St George’s, Epsom and St Helier Hospitals and Health Group offers opt-out HIV testing in its emergency departments. 

Testing in this way means people living with HIV are diagnosed more quickly – resulting in them receiving effective early treatment and reducing onward transmission. 

It also means people get access to other support they need, such as appointments with health advisors or psychologists who can help them come to terms with the diagnosis.  

More than 16,500 people were tested for HIV at Epsom and St Helier hospitals last year, while St George’s Hospital tested more than 35,000 people between April and December. 

At Epsom – where testing started in May last year – and St Helier – where it started in 2019 – there were seven new diagnoses in 2022, and three people who had already been diagnosed were re-engaged. 

Dr Olubanke Davies, a GUM/HIV Consultant based at St Helier Hospital’s Rosehill Clinic, said: “The earlier someone with HIV is diagnosed, the better, as it means they can start treatment early and reduce the risk of developing severe illness.

“We’ve put a lot of work into testing in our emergency departments, not just by making patients aware of why we are doing this but training up staff, too. We are on hand to deliver results to any patients who test positive and to talk through the developments in HIV care and the improved outcomes with treatment. 

“We also offer free routine care and treatment to peoples who are living with HIV, and offer psychological support”.

Undetectable = Untransmissible. Our U = U floral installation at St George’s for World AIDS Day in December reminds us of the power of prevention, people with HIV who take antiretroviral therapy (ART) daily cannot transmit the virus to others. 

To find out more about getting an HIV test and getting the support you need, visit: https://www.stgeorges.nhs.uk/service/sexual-health/outpatient-hiv-services/