UK National Guidelines for HIV Testing 2008
New UK National Guidelines for HIV Testing are now published online.
These guidelines are intended to facilitate an increase in HIV testing in all healthcare settings as recommended by the UK’s Chief Medical Officers and Chief Nursing Officers in order to reduce the proportion of individuals with undiagnosed HIV infection, with the aim of benefiting both individual and public health.
Misconceptions remain regarding HIV testing that hinder increased testing. In particular, many clinicians believe that lengthy pre-test counselling is required prior to testing. These guidelines provide the information needed to enable any clinician to perform an HIV test within good clinical practice and encourage ‘normalisation’ of HIV testing.
For this change in approach to be beneficial and ethically acceptable, it is imperative that following a positive HIV diagnosis, a newly diagnosed individual is immediately linked into appropriate HIV treatment and care.
This guidance refers to both diagnostic testing of individuals presenting with ‘clinical indicator diseases’ (i.e. where HIV infection enters the differential diagnosis) and opportunistic screening of populations where this is indicated on the basis of prevalence data. It also includes an appendix on the provision of community-based HIV testing.
The guidelines emphasise that in the UK, HIV testing remains voluntary and confidential, and that this should be possible within any healthcare setting if these guidelines are followed.
- HIV is now a treatable medical condition and the majority of those living with the virus remain fit and well on treatment.
- Despite this a significant number of people in the United Kingdom are unaware of their HIV infection and remain at risk to their own health and of passing their virus on to others.
- Late diagnosis is the most important factor associated with HIV-related morbidity and mortality in the UK.
- Patients should therefore be offered and encouraged to accept HIV testing in a wider range of settings than is currently the case.
- Patients with specific indicator conditions should be routinely recommended to have an HIV test.
All doctors, nurses and midwives should be able to obtain informed consent for an HIV test in the same way that they currently do for any other medical investigation.
The full guidelines are available to download from the BHIVA website at: