Reminder to staff - offer an HIV test

Staff are being encouraged to ask patients with a history of homelessness or injecting drug use – particularly in Glasgow city centre – to have an HIV test.

We are currently experiencing an ongoing outbreak of HIV amongst people who inject drugs, with more new cases diagnosed this year than last. Those primarily affected are people living or accessing drugs in Glasgow city centre.

Julie Craik (below), Public Health Programme Manager – Blood Borne Viruses, said: “Specific risk factors linked to the outbreak include homelessness, public injecting and cocaine use (alone or in addition to opiates). If we are to address the ongoing transmission of HIV in Glasgow linked to the outbreak, it is essential that we increase levels of HIV testing.

“We would therefore advise staff that all patients with a history of homelessness or injecting drug use have an HIV test requested every three months unless they decline.”

More information and support is available from Julie Craik, public health programme manager – BBV, email: [email protected]

Frequently asked questions about HIV testing:

1. Who can undertake HIV testing?
All doctors, midwives, nurses and trained healthcare workers can obtain consent for and conduct an HIV or Blood Borne Virus test. Obtaining verbal consent is sufficient in most cases. A venous blood sample is the gold standard. Results are usually available within 48 hours.

2. Is pre-test counselling required prior to offering an HIV test?
There is no requirement for healthcare professionals to offer pre-test counselling prior to an HIV test. The pre-test discussion should cover why the testing is being recommended (e.g. due to risk and the benefits of early diagnosis and treatment) and how the patient will be given the result. This does not usually need a lengthy discussion.

3. How do I manage positive results?
There is a blood borne virus (BBV) failsafe team who provide support in delivering HIVpositive results and linking patients into care. The BBV failsafe team (sexual health advisors) will liaise with the testing clinician to ensure the result is given, providing support as necessary, and link the patient to the HIV treatment service. For patients tested in emergency departments, the BBV failsafe team will take responsibility for informing patients of their positive result where the patient is not admitted to a ward. The laboratory will not contact the emergency department testing clinician directly.