Homeless people in Liverpool and wider area now on treatment plans as a result of lockdown HIV and Hepatitis C testing initiative

August 14, 2020 |

  • Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust leads blood-borne virus testing initiative in Liverpool and Merseyside
  • Oxfordshire-based Owen Mumford provides HIV test under Simplitude ByMe portfolio to expand testing capability
  • Total of 421 people tested as lockdown means homeless are in temporary accommodation

A total of 67 people are now receiving treatment following a HIV and Hepatitis C testing initiative that engages with homeless people during lockdown, led by Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

The testing initiative began on June 15th and has now tested 421 people across 25 temporary housing locations. The Liver and Blood-Borne Virus teams at Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust saw a unique opportunity to support homeless people in knowing their status while the council is funding temporary accommodation and their whereabouts are known. Hepatitis C antiretroviral treatment was provided within 90 minutes to those who tested positive.

The initiative’s primary objective was to test for Hepatitis C through the Operational Delivery Network (ODN)*. However, it was decided to expand the testing remit by using Owen Mumford’s Simplitude ByMe portfolio HIV testing devices as a quick and easy method of providing HIV status, with the results delivered in just 15 minutes.

Jennie Dowd, Senior Project Manager for the initiative, says the team worked fast to identify an alternative solution in lockdown to support this hard-to-reach proportion of the population in getting treatment:

“Temporary accommodation and hostel management have been very supportive in ensuring that space is available to conduct testing, and we could not have done this without the collaboration, hard work and dedication of the Hep C Trust Peers and hostel staff. We were lucky to secure a Cephid machine for Hepatitis C testing, and Owen Mumford was also able to deliver the testing kits and provide training in what was a very quick turn-around,” she says.

Helen Caldwell, Liver Nurse Consultant at Liverpool University Hospitals, says: “This fast mobilisation was essential to the success of the initiative and helping us to overcome the historic challenges of homeless people being unlikely to visit clinics. Lockdown has not only meant that we know where they are, but also that they are living in groups so we can test in numbers. We have also been able to expand from Liverpool into Southport, Chester, St Helens and the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral.”

Eimear Railton, the Lead Nurse on the Blood Borne Virus team at Liverpool University Hospitals and part of the programme’s testing team, says that Owen Mumford’s Simplitude ByMe portfolio HIV testing devices are very easy-to-use:

“It is much easier than other devices I’ve used. So long as you’re organised, you just can’t go wrong,” she explains. “I was very surprised at how little blood is required for the test – just 10 microlitres, which also supports a smooth testing process.

“Overall, very few people have refused being tested, which has been very encouraging.”

Leanne Adam, Marketing Manager at leading Oxfordshire-based medical devices company Owen Mumford, says the company is proud to have been able to support such an important initiative:

“Any challenges of lockdown were quickly overcome because of an admirable commitment from Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in ensuring people who do not know they have these viruses are tested and treated quickly. We are extremely pleased that our device was a support to the scheme. It’s so easy to use, and Simplitude ByMe is also available as a self-test for HIV testing at home”

Dr Mas Chaponda, Clinical Lead for Infectious Diseases at Liverpool University Hospitals, says: “Liverpool has made considerable progress where Hepatitis C testing is concerned. And for HIV, we have surpassed UNAIDS 90-90-90 HIV target set for 2020. According to 2018 PHE data, in Liverpool 92% of all people living with HIV know their status; 99% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection are receiving sustained antiretroviral therapy; and that 97% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy have viral suppression. This lockdown initiative further supports the goal of the World Health Organisation to eliminate Hepatitis C, and the UNAIDS goal of ending the AIDS epidemic, both by 2030.”

https://simplitudebyme.com/

*Operational Delivery Networks (ODNs) are the structures through which hepatitis C treatment in England is being delivered. The Network involves regional centres which manage treatment decisions and prescribing, and which have a dispersed treatment model which aims to support partnership working and access for local patients.