NHS Grampian still has “a way to go” in reducing the late diagnosis of HIV, a leading clinician has claimed.
Dr Daniela Brawley, HIV clinician at NHS Grampian, said around 50% of patients diagnosed with the condition in the region are classified as being a late diagnosis.
Although the rate is gradually coming down, from 66% in 2016, Dr Brawley claims there is “still a way to go” on reducing the rate further.
It comes after Aberdeen City Council pledged its support earlier this week for the Fast Track Cities initiative to reduce the stigma surrounding the condition.
Speaking to the Evening Express, Dr Brawley said: “All over Scotland, and indeed the UK, there has been a problem with late diagnoses.
“So that means that we can still treat people, and it’s still great that people are diagnosed, but we just need to make sure that proportion of people diagnosed late is going down.
“The reason for that is they’ve probably had illnesses that could have been prevented if they had been diagnosed and went on treatment earlier. That rate is coming down.
“In NHS Grampian, with the managed care network for bloodborne viruses – so all of them, HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C – we’re working on trying to improve testing of all those.”
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Dr Brawley said the reasons for the rate of high diagnoses are “complex” but said “stigma” has a role to play.
She added: “Often, people think they’re not at risk because they maybe perceive only one group of people as being at risk of HIV when that’s not true.
“There might also potentially be stigma from a health professional point of view – in terms of thinking ‘I’m not going to offer that test because I don’t think that person is at risk because they don’t fulfil my criteria of what someone with HIV is’.
“So it’s not just from a public but a professional point of view, so we have to tackle that. Other reasons are that people don’t actually think about HIV.
“We’ve probably not been good – the UK as a whole – in getting messages out there.”
The aim is to have all Scottish cities signed up to the Fast Track Cities initiative, with Aberdeen joining Glasgow in committing to the aims.
These include zero new HIV transmissions, zero HIV-related deaths by 2030 and reducing stigma to zero.