The success of this year’s National HIV Testing Week free home blood tests campaign is just the tip of the iceberg, says a national testing expert.
As many as 4,400 Brits may be living with undiagnosed HIV, but millions more of us have other undiagnosed illnesses, from diabetes to leukaemia, that can be detected through simple home blood tests.
This week is ‘National HIV Testing Week’ and there has been a strong response to the offer of free fingerpick HIV blood tests that can be taken discreetly at home. It’s thought as many as 4,400 people are living with undiagnosed HIV in the UK and this could mean earlier detection for anyone facing this potentially significant health risk.
Following a significant decline in HIV diagnosis during the Covid pandemic, the NHS has been offering free blood tests this week, via the website freetestingHIV. It follows the success of a similar campaign held in 2015.
However, this success may be the tip of the iceberg. A leading testing expert is calling for similar events to be held for a raft of potentially serious diseases.
He says expanded testing could help detect currently undiagnosed illnesses in many thousands of people. This could save the NHS millions of pounds by detecting problems early.
Dr Quinton Fivelman PhD, chief scientific officer at London Medical Laboratory, says: “As the successful home HIV fingerpick test campaign proves, a simple blood test can potentially save thousands of lives. A wide range of heart, liver and kidney conditions can all be detected early by taking a simple at-home test, that can be delivered through the post.”
“A similar focus on other conditions, along the lines of “National HIV Testing Week”, could help catch many cancers and conditions such as hepatitis and diabetes at an earlier stage. Taken early, fingerprick tests can identify everything from thyroid problems (which can cause mood disorders and weight issues) to high cholesterol levels (which can lead to strokes and heart conditions).”
“By gaining an earlier diagnosis, many thousands of people would start treatment for their health issues sooner, leading to better outcomes and reducing the strain on NHS services.”
“HIV is not the only sexually transmitted infection that can be identified through a simple test. For example, London Medical Laboratory’s male and female sexual health tests are fast, combined blood and urine tests that can detect a range of STIs before their symptoms become noticeable, including:
- Hepatitis B surface antigen
- Hepatitis C Antibodies
- As well as HIV 1&2 antibodies & p4 antigen
“One silver lining to the Covid pandemic is that we have all become more familiar with the idea of home testing. Many of us have possibly taken a Covid lateral flow or swab test to see if we are infected or a simple fingerprick blood test to determine Covid antibody levels.”
“Increasingly, health experts believe that blood tests could lead to a healthcare revolution, identifying many conditions even before symptoms arise, leading to faster, timelier treatments.”
Almost two-thirds of Brits are overweight or obese and we have close to one million people with undiagnosed diabetes. Obesity costs the NHS an estimated £6.1bn a year to treat. It’s a major cause of diabetes, cancer, heart conditions, painful joints and other health problems.
A simple home test could tell people if they are close to or currently affected by this manageable condition. These blood tests are widely available.
“Beyond just testing for a single condition or disease, a general health test is certainly a useful course of action for anyone who wants to ensure they are in good health to fight infections, thereby reducing the likelihood of needing access to health services this winter.”
“For example, London Medical Laboratory’s General Health Profile at-home blood test provides people with a comprehensive check-up of their general health, including diabetes (HbA1c), gout, liver & kidney function, bone health, iron levels and a full cholesterol profile. Other more comprehensive tests check your vitamin D levels, which are often low at this time of year, and any potential thyroid or hormonal imbalances.”
They can be taken at home through the post, like the NHS HIV tests, or at one of the many drop-in clinics that offer these tests across London and nationwide in over 90 selected pharmacies and health stores.
If done in-store, a full blood test can be added that can indicate a wide range of issues such as anaemia and leukaemia.