Council chiefs have welcomed Whitehall’s announcement that it is committed to reaching zero HIV transmissions by 2030, but they urged the Government to reverse public health cuts ‘as a matter of urgency’.
The secretary of state for health & social care Matt Hancock MP will make the announcement today during a speech at a major global HIV/AIDS summit in London.
‘So today we’re setting a new goal: eradicating HIV transmission in England by 2030. No new infections within the next decade. Becoming one of the first countries to reach the UN zero infections target by 2030,’ he is expected to say.
The Department for Health & Social Care will establish an expert group that will be tasked with developing an action plan over the course of this year with prevention at its heart.
There will also be measurable action points for each group who are at risk of infection, including gay and bisexual men, black African and minority ethnic groups and for all other heterosexuals.
The news follows the UK meeting the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets in November 2018, ahead of the 2020 deadline, with 92% of people living with HIV diagnosed, 98% of those on treatment, and 97% unable to pass on HIV.
‘For England to reach zero new HIV transmissions, the Department for Health & Social Care, Public Health England, alongside local authorities, must now urgently work in collaboration to address some of the most pressing HIV issues,’ said Ian Green, chief executive of Terrence Higgins Trust, an HIV and sexual health charity.
‘These include stepping up HIV testing to ensure the 8,000 people who remain undiagnosed can get onto treatment, immediately adding more places to the PrEP trial and ensuring sexual health services are properly funded. Without these actions, this commitment simply won’t be achievable.
‘The clock has now started ticking towards the end of HIV transmissions in England. Today’s commitment demonstrates that the Government has listened to our demand for a bold vision on HIV. Now it must act upon our call to ensure services and interventions are urgently put in place to ensure that by 2030 this pledge is made a reality.’
Responding to Mr Hancock’s announcement, Cllr Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: ‘The progress made in supporting people with HIV, enabling them to live independent, fulfilling lives, and the fact that it is no longer the death sentence it once was, is a major public health success story.
‘Since public health moved to local government in 2013, councils have embraced their new responsibilities and worked with their health and community partners to deliver innovative programmes that support people with HIV.’
However, Cllr Hudspeth warned that in order to meet their 2030 deadline, the Government needed to reverse the £700m of real terms public health cuts planned to 2020 ‘as a matter of urgency’.
They also needed to ‘build upon existing success in prevention, detection and treatment of HIV’ and to ensure that ‘other sexual health services are not stretched too thinly to accommodate increasing demand’, he added.