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HPA calls for universal HIV testing

Clinical The Health Protection Agency has called for universal HIV testing to encourage early diagnosis of the disease.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has called for universal HIV testing to encourage early diagnosis of the disease.

GPs should offer HIV tests to all new registrants in areas of high prevalence, the HPA recommended. It also called for STI clinics to automatically test for HIV.

The comments came after the agency's figures revealed infection rates had "almost doubled" in the UK over the past decade, with 91,500 people in the country suffering from HIV in 2010.

But using GP surgeries as a base for HIV testing could cause problems, said pharmacist Jignesh Patel, who conducts HIV tests in his pharmacy.

"I think in real terms a lot of people might decline because of issues around confidentiality – they might feel that it will go on their patient record," he explained.

Mr Patel added that testing in pharmacies could solve the issue.

 "Pharmacy-based testing gives anonymity to patients and also offers instant testing – they don't need to book an appointment and can be seen at any time," he told C+D.

In 2010, 6,600 people were newly diagnosed with HIV, with a record number of gay men testing positive for the disease. The HPA estimates one in 20 gay men in the UK are infected with HIV, rising to one in 11 in London.

The figures highlighted that healthcare providers must not become "complacent" about the disease, said the British HIV Association (BHIVA).

"The high rate of recent infection, particularly among younger men, underscores the urgent need for improved prevention and earlier testing," said BHIVA chairman Jane Anderson.

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