November 2013

High Incidence of Undiagnosed HIV identified by Rapid HIV Screening Programme

Fri, 29 November 13 11:11

A new rapid HIV-screening programme, based at Dublin’s Mater Hospital, has already seen 4,900 patients - out of 6000 participants - volunteer to check their HIV status. It is estimated that nearly 30 per cent of Irish people living with HIV are currently undiagnosed, and this project aims to reach patients who might not otherwise take a HIV test.

The test is free, painless (mouth swab) and returns a result in 20 minutes. Patients who choose to participate in the project watch an interactive counselling video, complete an on-screen survey that assesses risk behaviour, and are then offered an oral swab HIV test. Of the 6000 people who watched the video and took the survey, 81 per cent (4,900) opted to take the HIV test.

The project, known as M-BRiHT (Mater-Bronx Rapid HIV Testing), is a collaboration between UCD, the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital and the Jacobi Medical Centre in the Bronx, New York. The project is directed by Dr Paddy Mallon, Consultant in Infectious Diseases and Associate Dean, Research & Innovation at UCD School of Medicine and Medical Science. He described the high participation rate as “very encouraging and proof that the majority will check their status when given the opportunity.”

While the vast majority of tests come back negative, patients who receive a positive result are immediately provided with access to specialist HIV care.

“Linking patients with immediate, expert care is essential. We are hoping to reach people with the early and symptom-free stage of HIV, so that they can get the most benefit from treatment and monitoring” said Dr Ger O’Connor, an Emergency Medicine doctor who is project leader on M-BRiHT.

“Treatment and management of HIV has reached the stage where those diagnosed early who receive appropriate treatment can realistically expect normal lifespan. The message from this project is clear: know your status” said Dr O’Connor.

Dr Mallon said:

"It is essential from a public and individual health perspective that patients with HIV are diagnosed and given access to expert care @HIVMat the earliest possible stage. This project is proving that voluntary screening, within emergency departments provides a feasible and acceptable method for HIV testing in the general population. A broad screening programme of this nature also helps to normalise HIV testing – everyone should know their status, whether positive or negative. We will be using the results of the project to push for implementation of this model throughout Ireland’s emergency departments.”

6,000 patients visiting the Mater's emergency department have been invited to participate in the study with 4,900 opting to take the swab HIV test.  While the majority of tests come back negative, for the 14 positive cases identified, the hospital is able to provide immediate access to HIV specialists and commence treatment.  The results indicate a HIV incidence of 2.85 cases in every thousand taking the test.  This prevalence is high by international standards and exceeds the 1 in 1,000 prevalance rate where experts recommend widespread screening.

The latest national figures indicated that 315 new case of HIV have been diagnosed so far this year as rapid screening programmes such as the M-BRiHT study are rolled out.  With early diagnosis and appropriate treatment, patients can stay healthy and expect a normal life span.

The Mater-Bronx Rapid HIV Testing Project (M-BRiHT) is a clinical study sponsored by University College Dublin and is registered with the US National Institutes of Health (

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@HIVMRG   UCD molecular medicine translational research into long term treatment co-mobidities associated with HIV and models of HIV testing.
@HIVTox Tweets from Dr Paddy Mallon, Associate Dean for Research & Innovation and Principal Investigator, UCD HIV Molecular Research Group
@geroconnor Tweets from Dr Ger O'Connor, frontline emergency medicine doctor at Mater Misericordiae University Hospital and project lead, M-BRiHT