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Wednesday 26th June 2019

Doctors reluctant to test for HIV

7th January 2011

Dr Stephen Taylor, Consultant Physician Sexual Health and HIV, Birmingham Heartlands Hospitals, argues how routine testing will progress the fight against HIV.


Huge advances have been made in the treatment options offered to HIV patients since the early 1980s.

A patient can now have a greater life expectancy with proper treatment, yet people still die with HIV.

A quarter of those with HIV do not know they are infected and it is those who are too far down the road for the drug regimes to be effective that are dying.

Prejudice, lack of awareness and reluctance to test are among the reasons for this with education being the key solution.

An HIV test is crucial; 95% of pregnant women now receive an HIV test as standard and I believe this should be extended to a wider population.

Only through more effective and more widespread testing can we make earlier diagnoses, reduce undetected HIV cases and halt onward transmissions.

Normalising HIV testing makes good clinical sense but will lead to significant treatment savings, though such savings are not immediate.

Regular testing and then treating people is the way to reduce HIV transmission.

In my hospital, we are launching a Saving Lives HIV testing awareness campaign to reduce undiagnosed infections and prevent avoidable mortality and morbidity.

If clinicians work together, and test every patient presenting with “indicator conditions” we will diagnose HIV early, when treatment can do the most good.

With more than 22,000 people infected with HIV who are unaware they have it, diagnosing them must be a priority, leading to early treatment and helping make progress in the fight against HIV.


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