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Rapid testing to help combat worst UK outbreak of HIV in 30 years

Published on 18/02/20 at 09:46am

New HIV tests that provide results in minutes are being used in Glasgow to fight a recent outbreak of HIV.

The city is currently facing the UK’s worst HIV outbreak in over 30 years, with homeless people and drug users being the groups most affected. Around 170 people have contracted the disease but it is believed this number is actually much higher.

The new finger-prick blood tests, that will be available at needled exchanges, provide results in minutes where as previous tests could take up to two weeks and it could be difficult to trace people to tell them the results if they were homeless.

John Campbell, of Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership, said quick results mean those in need can get treatment instantly. He said: “Undoubtedly, the current HIV outbreak is due to people sharing drug-taking equipment. Currently, people are injecting outdoors in filthy, sometimes urine-soaked alleyways or on derelict ground. Glasgow has some of the best needle exchange services in the world but it is very hard for us to influence people's injecting behaviour unless professionals are present when they inject.”

As the outbreak is heavily linked to homelessness and drug use, many medical workers favour creating safe injecting facilities. Glasgow City Council wants to open an indoor location where drug users can consume drugs bought on the street in a clean environment. While the Scottish government support his move, the British government do not.

Currently, more than 5,000 people are living with HIV in Scotland, with modern antiretroviral drugs mean those with the condition can life long healthy lives.

Conor Kavanagh

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