Routine HIV screening at Royal Sussex County Hospital’s emergency department is helping to detect undiagnosed HIV in Brighton

October 31, 2022

Caption: Naomi Alexander (left), Emergency Department Ward Sister at Royal Sussex County Hospital, with Laura Clark (right), HIV Screening Coordinator, UHSussex.

HIV screening at the Royal Sussex County Hospital emergency department has helped detect undiagnosed HIV in the city and offer the chance for effective and early treatment.

Since April 2022, all patients attending the Brighton hospital’s A&E are screened for HIV when having routine bloods unless they opt out.

Brighton & Hove has a higher number of people living with HIV compared to the national average. It is estimated there are currently around 110 people living with undiagnosed HIV in the city.

Laura Clark, HIV Screening Co-ordinator at University Hospital Sussex (UHSussex), said: “Our emergency department process thousands of blood tests each month, giving us a great opportunity to detect, treat, and thereby reduce HIV in the city.

“We know that since starting HIV screening  80% of patients are happy to be tested and expect to be tested for HIV within a hospital setting. Patients, of course, have the right to opt out of any blood test, including an HIV test.

“Last year, half of people seen by the HIV team at the Royal Sussex County Hospital were late diagnoses. Opt-out testing aims to reduce this by potentially detecting HIV at an earlier stage, which not only improves the health of the patient but also reduces transmission as people can’t pass the virus on if they are on treatment.

‚ÄúPeople will be told if they have a reactive result by the Sexual Health and HIV service within the hospital and this is completely confidential. They will not be routinely contacted if the test is negative.‚ÄĚ

The roll-out of HIV screening at Brighton was highly commended by London hospital trusts who are setting up similar programmes.

The head of¬†‚ÄčUrgent Care for NHS Integrated Care System, Stuart Gibbons, acknowledged the incredible hard work and determination from staff across the project, especially within emergency department to get the programme to go live in such a short space of time.

Since the pilot launched, the hospital’s emergency department has processed more than 14, 000 HIV tests, identifying one person who was not known to be HIV positive. Since their diagnosis this person has engaged in care, started treatment and is having on-going support from HIV services, in hospital and the community.

UHSussex also launched an HIV Allies project, with the aim of becoming an HIV stigma free hospital.

Colleagues at UHSussex have formed an HIV Allies working group, aiming to create a safe space for people living with and affected by HIV, and reduce experiences of HIV stigma across the Trust’s hospitals.

Eileen Nixon, consultant nurse at UHSussex, said: ‚ÄúThere are serious health consequences if patients avoid treatment or decline HIV testing due to fears of stigma and discrimination in healthcare. We are proud to be leading on several stigma-reducing projects across our hospitals and the local health economy.‚ÄĚ