NHS Grampian has launched a pilot scheme aimed at diagnosing blood-borne viruses (BBVs) like HIV and hepatitis earlier.
The health board said that early detection of viruses like Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV can be “lifesaving”, and when left untreated can lead to serious illness and death.
The new initiative is a first for Scottish health boards and will see all patients who have a blood test performed as part of their assessment at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary’s Emergency Department tested for BBVs.
The board confirmed that patients will be given the opportunity to opt-out of the pilot which is set to last three months.
The pilot is being funded by the Scottish Government and will be closely evaluated by public health officials.
Gareth Patton, consultant in emergency medicine, said: “Patients with blood borne virus infections often have no symptoms, so there are people living with them who aren’t aware that they are infected.
“The only way to find out if someone has a blood borne virus is to carry out a blood test.
“Across the UK, and the rest of the world, there is ongoing transmission of all three BBVs, often with cases of late diagnosis.
“Our pilot is part of a drive to eliminate Hepatitis C, end new transmissions of HIV and treat people living with Hepatitis B.”
Dr Patton added: “The opt-out testing project in our Emergency Department could have a significant impact for individual patients and the wider community by identifying those unknowingly living with blood-borne viruses in Grampian.
“By identifying patients in this way, we can ensure early follow-up with an appropriate specialist for initiation of treatments available on the NHS and also potentially reduce further spread of the infections.”
Hepatitis C can be treated and cured with a short course of tablets; effective treatment for HIV means patients can have undetectable viral loads and live a normal healthy life span; and Hepatitis B can be treated to ensure the person affected can stay healthy.
“We have been working closely with our colleagues in Sexual Health, Hepatology and Public Health to make this pilot as successful as possible,” Dr Patton said.
“We are very excited to be the first board in Scotland to offer this service, and we look forward to evaluating the project.”
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