Letter: Wider HIV testing

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The Independent Online
Sir: You report (17 December) that more pregnant women are to be offered the test for HIV, the Aids virus. But why does there continue to be such an emphasis on testing pregnant women? If a woman is identified as being HIV positive when she is pregnant, there is relatively little medical help she can be offered. She can be offered a termination of her pregnancy, but she cannot be offered any drug treatment as this could harm her unborn child.

But since 1991 more general HIV testing has been taking place at some district hospitals in London. At these hospitals, whenever a blood test has been done the leftover blood has been anonymously tested for HIV. The results, which have just been published, have shown a level of infection greater in men than that found in pregnant women. On average one in every 175 men was found to be infected. These are not men considered to be at particular risk for HIV infection, but simply those people having a blood test done for some reason unconnected to HIV infection.

So now that it has been shown to be feasible, should there be more widespread anonymous but general HIV surveys in hospitals to complement the large-scale surveys of pregnant women? And should we now be offering an HIV test to every person, man or woman, who has a blood test done in hospital?

Yours faithfully,

ANNABEL KANABUS

Director, Aids Education

and Research Trust

Horsham, West Sussex

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