Posted on: 29 October 2021

“I get asked routinely if I have allergies and it doesn’t bother me that I have to answer no each time. If I had allergies, I would want to be asked as it’s part of my care. We should view domestic abuse questions in the same way.”

This quote is from a person living with HIV who is receiving care at the Mortimer Market Centre in London. It concluded Dr Nadia Ahmed’s talk today at the 18th EACS conference, after she reported on the importance of routine domestic abuse screening following a project that she and her colleagues ran from March 2020 to March 2021.

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There have been three times as many reports of domestic abuse since the launch of the project. The majority of disclosures came from non-White British men who have sex with men.

Data from a 2019 national household survey showed that 5.7% of the UK adult population (2.4 million) had experienced domestic abuse, which is also the cause of one in five murders in the country. During the COVID-19-related lockdown (March-May 2020), there was an increase of 25% to 60% of calls for help and of 150% in access to online information about domestic abuse. 

While there is increasing evidence of domestic abuse among people living with HIV and its link to poor health outcomes. However, only one study has specifically reported on domestic abuse screening in this population and found that women were predominantly affected.

While the European AIDS Clinical Society (EACS) guidelines do not address the topic, the British HIV Association (BHIVA) guidelines recommend asking patients about previous or current intimate partner violence every six months. However, these guidelines are not always implemented.

Ahmed and colleagues aimed at improving rates of routine domestic abuse inquiry by 50% over a year period (March 2020 to March 2021). For this, they used quality improvement methods, relying on staff, information technology and patients. Among the several steps taken:

  • All clinicians, nurses and other healthcare support workers were encouraged to ask patients about domestic abuse.
  • Staff training on screening and managing domestic abuse cases were held.
  • Weekly reminders, including reports of domestic abuse screening rates, were sent to staff with regular support and encouragement to continue asking.
  • Patient records were reviewed to optimise reporting.
  • Patient feedback was collected.

Read the full article by Alain Volny-Anne.

Register for CNWL's Domestic Abuse Conference on 24 November 

This year’s conference will focus on the impact of Domestic Abuse on staff own personal lives.  Given the prevalence in the wider population and the size of the NHS workforce,  CNWL recognises that its employees will be amongst those affected by Domestic Abuse - as an individual who is currently living with violence and abuse, someone who has previously been impacted by Domestic Abuse or as an individual who perpetrates Domestic Abuse.  We want to be better able to respond to and support these staff.

Come along and join the conversation.