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Public Health: Opt-out HIV Testing

Volume 741: debated on Wednesday 29 November 2023

The Government remain committed to ending new HIV transmissions within England by 2030. In order to do this successfully, we must identify and treat more of those who are unknowingly living with HIV.

As part of our HIV action plan, NHS England is currently operating a bloodborne virus emergency department opt-out testing programme for HIV and for hepatitis B and C for 34 emergency departments across London, Manchester, Salford, Brighton and Blackpool, focusing on areas with extremely high HIV prevalence (five or more HIV cases per 1,000 residents aged 15 to 59), in line with National Institute for Health and Care Excellence HIV testing guidance.

This means that anyone aged 16 years and over attending an emergency department in these areas and having a routine blood test will automatically be tested for HIV and for hepatitis B and C, unless they opt-out. Accessible public-facing information about testing, its benefits and how they can opt out allows individuals to make informed choices.

Through their recently published evaluation report, the data from NHS England and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) indicate that the existing opt-out testing programme has been highly successful in areas of extremely high HIV prevalence, helping identify over 2,000 cases of bloodborne viruses, including 550 cases of people living with undiagnosed or untreated HIV.

After careful consideration of the available evidence, I am pleased to announce that the Government are committing to new research, commissioned through the National Institute for Health and Care Research, to evaluate the expansion of HIV opt-out testing to a further 46 emergency departments, in areas across England where there is high HIV prevalence (two or more HIV cases per 1,000 residents). Funding will support 12 months of testing for each emergency department, to begin during the next financial year.

We anticipate that this will be an effective way to reach a substantial proportion of the estimated 4,500 people England who are living with HIV but unaware of their status.

We will continue to keep Parliament updated on our progress to meet our 2030 ambitions as set out in our HIV action plan. We also want to thank our partners across the NHS, in NHS England, UKHSA, local government, and the community and voluntary sector, for their work towards ending HIV transmission in England.