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Gaps in HIV mental health provision preventing patients accessing help

BY STEFFIE BANATVALA

People with HIV are missing out on vital healthcare because they are have stopped accessing medical attention causing them to be “lost to care”.

When patients do reappear at clinics their symptoms often require hospitalisation, leading to life-altering disabilities, claimed Dr Kate Childs from King’s College London at a recent British HIV Association conference.

But, St Thomas and King’s College, along with Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust, are attempting to find those lost-to-HIV care patients through patient records, electronic databases and A&E alerts, but most cases could not be found according to AIDS organisation Aidsmap.

Of those found, 71 per cent were black African or Caribbean. Patients are routinely tested for HIV across emergency departments, unless they expressly opt out, increasing chances of access to life-changing medication.

Lambeth has the highest rate of HIV prevalence in the UK, with 42 per cent of diagnoses coming from BAME communities, according to the National AIDS Trust report on South East London.

A Lambeth council spokesman said : “The NHS is responsible for ensuring people diagnosed with HIV receive the treatment and follow-up they need to remain as healthy as possible.

“Lambeth council provides some additional support which we term “HIV care and support” and includes non-clinical care such as peer support”.

A spokeswoman for King’s and Guy’s and St Thomas’ Trust said: “Clinicians across South-east London identified that a number of patients with HIV had stopped attending clinic for care and medication.

“Reasons for disengagement include competing needs, poverty, mental health problems, substance misuse and stigma associated with the virus.

“We have re-engaged patients by reaching out to them by phone, text, letter and via their GP when appropriate, offering travel vouchers and appointments in non-hospital locations to remove potential barriers to them accessing care.”

Pictured top: HIV test being taken (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Equality Michigan/LGBT Free Media Collective)

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