Bottomley to make HIV testing easier

HAVING an HIV test is to be made easier, with testing centres around Britain offering a rapid results service, it was announced yesterday, writes Liz Hunt.

Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for Health, is urging health authorities to set up centres away from the conventional setting of genito-urinary clinics, or doctors' surgeries, as many people felt uncomfortable about HIV tests in these environments.

Mrs Bottomley said pregnant women living in areas with a high incidence of HIV should be offered a test as part of their routine ante-natal care. All testing would be voluntary and accompanied by pre and post-test counselling.

The moves announced at a Pan- European Symposium on HIV and Aids in London yesterday, are part of a renewed effort to curb the spread of the disease by urging more people to be tested. It will also help doctors obtain a more accurate picture of the spread of HIV in the heterosexual population, while early treatment for those infected can prolong life.

New guidelines on the importance of contact tracing, where an infected person, or a doctor, informs a partner of the risk of HIV infection, have also been issued to the NHS, Mrs Bottomley said. She announced funds of pounds 195m for HIV and Aids, an increase of 15 per cent to help cover the cost of new centres and increased testing.

In contrast to her statement, Dr Michael Merson, director of the World Health Organisation's Global Programme on Aids, told the symposium that in some countries 'massive amounts of money were now being misdirected to testing . . . that are needed for real prevention programmes'.

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