Today, Tuesday 24 May, Elton John and David Furnish, Founder and Chairman of the Elton John AIDS Foundation respectively, visited King's to launch a proactive HIV blood testing initiative that aims to reach 34,000 Londoners in its first 12 months of operation.
The result of an ongoing partnership between the Elton John AIDS Foundation and King's, the programme aims to significantly decrease late diagnosis rates in Lambeth and Southwark, which are areas currently recognised as having the highest HIV prevalence rates in the UK.
The new process, which launches this summer, will see routine HIV screening of all patients requiring a blood test whilst presenting at the Emergency Department. Those who test positive will be referred to the dedicated HIV department for treatment. Those who do not wish to be tested will have the opportunity to opt out at the point of testing.
During the visit, the trustees were met by clinicians from the Emergency Department and the Sexual Health and HIV Service, who explained the impact the programme will have. The trustees were then introduced to some King's patients living with HIV.
Dr Cyril Noel, Consultant in Emergency Medicine said, “We’re extremely grateful to the Elton John AIDS Foundation for the grant that has allowed us to implement universal HIV testing.
“Lambeth and Southwark have some of the highest levels of HIV in the UK. There’s no reason why people should get sick or die from HIV, and one of the most common reasons they do is because they don’t know they have the infection. Universal testing is a significant step in addressing this.”
Speaking of the launch of the programme, Elton John said: “Twenty-three years ago it was my privilege to open the Caldecot HIV Treatment Centre at King’s College Hospital. At the time, there was so little that could be done to prevent the sickness and death caused by HIV/AIDS, or to ease suffering and prevent infection. It was heartbreaking. So it’s incredible to think that today King’s can introduce something which not only stops people becoming sick needlessly, it prevents new infections and saves precious resources. I’m deeply proud that my Foundation has been able to support King’s in this endeavor and to see a British hospital leading the kind of innovation that will get us to an AIDS free future.”
Photo credit: Richard Young/REX/Shutterstock