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The Department of Health has said the expansion of rapid HIV testing to GP practices will be considered once there is a new HSE Clinical Lead for Sexual Health in place.
In response to a letter from NAGP President Dr Maitiú Ó Tuathail, which highlighted that rapid HIV testing was not available in general practice in Ireland, the Department said work on expanding rapid HIV testing was ongoing. “Over the past two years, community HIV testing is expanding, in order to reach those most at risk of HIV and identify those living with undiagnosed HIV,” according to the Department’s response.
“The initial approach taken by the HSE with the introduction of rapid HIV testing was to target those most at risk of HIV. The ‘Know Now’ outreach project commenced in Dublin, Cork and Limerick in 2017, expanding to Galway in 2018.
“While the initial focus in Dublin was men who have sex with men (MSM), the target population in other cities has expanded to include other key target populations, such as migrants, people who inject drugs and homeless communities. The HSE is currently scoping the expansion of rapid HIV testing in 2019 to target people living in direct provision centres and homeless communities.
“The HSE has informed my Department that the expansion of HIV rapid testing to GP practices will be considered in due course once there is a new Clinical Lead for Sexual Health in place.”
In December, Dr Ó Tuathail wrote to the Department highlighting that GPs had been contacting the NAGP indicating that patients had attended their surgeries seeking a rapid HIV test.
“This is a welcome development… However, patients have been disappointed by the fact that this is not available to them and there is now confusion amongst the public,” wrote Dr Ó Tuathail.
“I am writing to you requesting that general practitioners be provided with rapid HIV testing kits, free of charge, from 1 January 2019. This will facilitate GPs to rapidly test patients for HIV and will be another step in the improved detection of HIV in Irish society.”