67 homeless people in Merseyside now on HIV and Hepatitis C treatment plans

Part of the team involved in the test and treatment programme in Merseyside. Credit: Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Trust

A testing programme for homeless people in Merseyside during lockdown has led to over 60 people being put on treatment plans for HIV and Hepatitis C.

The initiative - ran by Liverpool University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust - has tested over 400 people across 25 temporary housing locations since June.

Teams at the hospital say that they saw a unique opportunity to support homeless people whilst the council was funding their temporary accommodation and their whereabouts were known.

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.

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."

  • Helen Caldwell

The team tested for Hepatitis through the Operational Delivery Service, which is the method for testing people for the disease in England, they decided to expand testing for HIV by using Owen Mumford's Simplitude ByMe testing devices.

The devices can give a result in 15 minutes and nurses said that it's simplicity led to very few people refusing to be tested.

Dr Mas Chaponda, Clinical Lead for Infectious Diseases at Liverpool University Hospitals, said: "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."