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HIV Charities welcome UK Government’s HIV Action Plan

The Terrence Higgins Trust and the Elton John Aids Foundation are both calling for further action to end new HIV diagnoses by 2030.

By Alastair James

Words: Alastair James; pictures: Pexels

HIV and Aids charities have welcomed an announcement from the UK Government to commit £20 million to opt-out testing for HIV as part of its commitment to ending new diagnoses of the virus by 2030.

The Government has today (1 December) – World Aids Day – published its HIV Action Plan, which has been made in collaboration with the Terrence Higgins Trust (THT), one of the UK’s leading leaving HIV charity

2021 also marks 40 years since the first reported Aids-related death in the UK. Around 80 people a week are still diagnosed with HIV in the UK

“A vital step”

Following the publication of the plan, the THT has welcomed the commitment of £20 million to fund opt-out testing in A&Es in areas with the highest prevalence of HIV over three years, as well as annual reports to Parliament on the progress towards the 2030 goal.

Praising the plan as a “step change” Ian Green, the charity’s Chief Executive says there’s “clear evidence” that opt-out HIV testing has a significant impact in finding those living with undiagnosed HIV. There are an estimated 6,600 such people in the UK.

He calls this “a vital step” towards the 2030 target welcoming mandatory training for healthcare professionals to reduce stigma and an indication to ensure free HIV test kits to do at home are available across the country.

The charity has also released research to coincide with World Aids Day indicating that 82 per cent of people would be comfortable being tested for HIV with a routine blood test.

However, Green stresses that more needs to be done. As well as making opt-out testing and free HIV home testing available across the UK all year round, he argues more needs to be done to make PrEP more available.

“We need to take PrEP and wider HIV prevention to people via primary care, including community pharmacies and GPs. Only then will we reach women and ethnic minority populations, for example. This needs to urgently be piloted and we know community pharmacists are keen to do so.”

The Elton John AIDS Foundation has also welcomed today’s Action Plan and is calling for improved at-home testing, PrEP provision in primary care, better post-diagnosis support and an enhanced focus on the health inequalities and stigma which continue to exacerbate HIV to ensure the life-changing goal is achieved.

The Action Plan sets out four key objectives to reach the 2030 goal:

– Ensure equitable access and uptake of HIV prevention programmes  – this will involve £3.5 million over three years to deliver a National HIV Prevention Programme.

– Scale up HIV testing in line with national guidelines

– Optimise rapid access to treatment and retention in care

– Improving quality of life for people living with HIV and addressing stigma

The Plan also mentions:

– We need to make up for “lost ground” due to the impact Covid-19 has had on HIV prevention, care, and diagnosis.

– It will aim to bring evidence-based HIV-prevention strategies together into a comprehensive programme.

– The number of people diagnosed in England fell 35% between 2014 and 2019 (from 5,790 to 3,770)

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