herald

Friday 2 December 2016

'Alarming' levels of new cases of HIV

A permanent routine of blood tests for all emergency department patients at the hospital began yesterday
A permanent routine of blood tests for all emergency department patients at the hospital began yesterday

An "alarming" number of people were found to have undiagnosed HIV or Hepatitis B or C in routine tests of patients at a Dublin emergency department.

The viral infections were discovered during a pilot blood-testing project carried out at St James's Hospital in Dublin.

A permanent routine of blood tests for all emergency department patients at the hospital began yesterday.

The pilot test was conducted on 10,000 samples obtained over several months. Results identified 97 HIV, 44 Hepatitis B and 447 Hepatitis C cases.

"The pilot project we conducted in March of last year clearly demonstrated high prevalence rates for all three infections in attendees of our Emergency Department and it was alarming to see the high numbers of new diagnoses," said Professor Patrick Plunkett, medical director of the emergency department.

Diagnosed

Of those identified, just over 7pc were new HIV cases, 45pc were new Hepatitis B cases and nearly 13pc were new Hepatitis C cases. Almost one in three people in the test, previously diagnosed with Hepatitis C, had not been receiving care.

"It is critically important for those diagnosed with any of these three blood-borne viral infections to receive continual care, some 84pc of the previously disengaged patients from the pilot project are now successfully linked back to care," said the professor.

Recent studies show at least two people per 1,000 in the Dublin area have HIV.

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