Terrence Higgins Trust Scotland calls for opt-out HIV testing in Scotland’s emergency departments

Graham Robson June 14, 2023

Terrence Higgins Trust Scotland has welcomed the publication of the first year statistics of opt-out emergency department HIV testing in England.

In its first year, the intervention, funded as a component of England’s HIV Action Plan, found almost 2,000 people with HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C in London, Brighton, Manchester and Blackpool.

The Scottish Government has committed to eliminating new transmission of HIV in Scotland by 2030 and last World AIDS Day welcomed a proposal on how to achieve this goal. The HIV Transmission Elimination Proposal, developed by a coalition of clinicians, academics and community, set out 22 recommendations to the Scottish Government, covering the key pillars testing, education, combination prevention, specialist HIV care, and contact tracing.

A pilot of opt-out testing interventions in Scotland was recommended as a key component of this, with the proposal noting the impact the measure could have on identifying people who have HIV and are either unaware or not currently engaged with specialist care and treatment.

While Terrence Higgins Trust Scotland welcomes the HIV Transmission Elimination Proposal, the Scottish Government is yet to commit to measures that would see the expansion of HIV testing in Scotland, including the introduction of opt-out testing in emergency departments. According to the HIV / sexual health charity, this is putting Scotland‚Äôs progress to 2030 at “considerable risk”.

Alan Eagleson, Head of Scotland Services at Terrence Higgins Trust Scotland, said:¬†“Scotland has the opportunity to be the first country in the UK ‚Äď even the world ‚Äď to eliminate new transmissions of HIV. However, if this ambition is to be achieved, testing must become accessible and routine across the country.

“The one-year statistics from England show the phenomenal success of opt-out HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C testing. Tangible progress has been made in tackling health inequalities and reaching population groups often less likely to access a HIV test through traditional routes. While the resources are now available for Scotland to achieve its 2030 goal, political ambition must match this.

“An expansion of HIV testing is urgently needed in Scotland if those undiagnosed or lost to care are to be found. Now is the time to act.”