Plan for blanket Aids screening, as one in four carriers don't know they have HIV

SCOTLAND is planning to introduce universal screening for HIV, it was claimed last night.

A leading public health expert said government officials were discussing the proposal, which many medics believe would slow the spread of Aids.

Jim Sherval, of NHS Lothian, said the move was being considered ahead of the launch of a national HIV strategy in the spring, according to reports. The idea, he said, was "under active discussion".

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More than one in four HIV carriers across the UK are believed to be unaware they have the virus, which causes Aids. The figure was as high as one in three of HIV-positive gay men tested in a recent Edinburgh study.

Most experts believe HIV testing should be automatic in areas where the virus is most common.

David Johnston, director of Edinburgh HIV charity Waverley Care, said: "It may well be that GP practices in some areas should definitely be looking at proactively offering an HIV test to every new patient who registers, and I think that would be a helping way forward in terms of thinking about how to maximise people's chances of living well with HIV."

Glasgow has the highest level of undiagnosed HIV in Britain, according to the Medical Research Council. The UK Health Protection Agency has called for automatic screening in any area where official HIV levels run at two or more per 1,000. Such levels, however, have not been reached anywhere in Scotland. NHS Lothian has the highest official prevalence of the virus, at between 1.5 and 1.99 per 1,000.

The Lancet last week published a study showing that universal testing – if combined with immediate treatment for anyone found to be positive – would cut the number of new HIV cases by 95% in a decade.

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