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Two Black Country hospitals to automatically test patients for HIV after Elton John's intervention

Sandwell Hospital and Walsall's Manor Hospital's A&E departments will now automatically test patients for HIV and Hepatitis, after Sir Elton John successfully lobbied the Government.

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Sir Elton John in Parliament

To coincide with World Aids Day, which is today, Victoria Atkins MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, announced the expansion of the NHS opt-out blood-borne virus testing programme for HIV and Hepatitis.

Seven West Midlands hospitals' A&E patients will be automatically tested for the HIV/AIDs virus. It is part of a larger strategy, adopted worldwide, which aspires to eliminate the transmission of HIV/AIDS by 2030 and follows a trial funded by Sir Elton John's charity foundation in South London.

West Midlands charity Life+ welcomed Sir Elton and the Government's announcement believing lives will be saved.

Life+ co-founder David Kuczora, who advises the British Association of Sexual Health & HIV and the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “We all know about the Covid pandemic, but we should not forget the ongoing pandemic of HIV/AIDS.

“Research predictions suggest that around 4,500 people have contracted HIV but are not even aware about it. It is a particularly difficult challenge to reach out to certain communities.

“Particularly at risk are men with wives who do not identify as gay but who engage in risky sexual behaviour, which inevitably increases the transmission of the HIV virus. Often, their partners only discover they have HIV during pregnancy when they have full blood tests done.

“The message to anyone having sex – the simple message - is use the appropriate protection for contraception and other sexually transmitted infections. No matter your age, race, sex or gender these infections and diseases do not discriminate."

He added: “If you think you might have had risky sex, then immediately call 111 or go to your nearest hospital emergency department. On this World AIDS Day, we can help to stop the transmission of this awful virus spreading further.”

University Hospital Coventry, City, Heartlands and Queen Elizabeth Hospitals in Birmingham, Good Hope Hospital in Sutton Coldfield, Sandwell General Hospital in West Bromwich and Walsall Manor Hospital are the seven West Midlands hospitals included in the expansion of HIV testing.

Sir Elton said: "My foundation and partners did a three-year pilot (2018-2021) in the South London boroughs of Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham. This pioneering approach showed beyond a doubt that opt-out testing works in A&E.

“Automatic testing gets to people earlier, which means less HIV transmission, less illness, less death and by the estimate of health economists, £50 million saved for the NHS.

"So, to hear today from the Secretary of State that this work will be expanded to every high HIV prevalence areas, 46 new Accident & Emergency departments in local hospitals across England, more than doubling the number of HIV tests, is truly wonderful news."

The Elton John AIDS Foundation was established in 1992.