The government of the United Kingdom is announcing a new commitment to reach zero HIV transmissions by 2030 in England.
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, is making the announcement at the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF), Evening Standard and Independent’s AIDSfree Cities Global Forum.
According to reports, Hancock will make the following statement: ‘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.’
The Department for Health and Social Care is also going to set up an expert group dedicated to this goal.
Prevention will be the core of the plan. Another element is providing support for vulnerable groups, including gay and bisexual men, and Black African and minority ethnic (BAME) groups.
According to the Terrence Higgins Trust (THT), there were around 101,600 people living with HIV in the UK in 2017. From 2016, however, there was a 17% drop in new diagnoses in 2017.
Of these diagnoses, 53% were gay or bisexual men, and of heterosexual people diagnosed, 38% were black African men and women.
A ticking clock
Ian Green, Chief Executive of THT, described the announcement as a ‘seminal moment’.
‘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,’ he commented.
‘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.’
There is currently an ongoing trial for PrEP treatment in England. However, many clinics are filling up spots in the trial and an expansion has been delayed.
‘The clock has now started ticking towards the end of HIV transmissions in England.’
Deborah Gold, Chief Executive of the National AIDS Trust (NAT), reiterated Green’s statement, saying ‘action must urgently follow’ the announcement.
‘Meaningful progress to the 2030 goal will not happen whilst sexual health services creak at the seams due to continued underinvestment in public health. People are unable to access the HIV prevention drug PrEP and are now going on to acquire HIV.
‘Matt Hancock must act quickly and decisively to ensure that public health is adequately funded and PrEP available to all who need it in England.’
The problem of Brexit
If the government continues its path towards Brexit, however, this plan could become compromised.
Most of the UK’s PrEP supply is believed to be privately imported from the European Union (EU). Therefore, if Brexit goes forward, this supply of PrEP is not guaranteed past 29 March.
Other HIV drugs and scientific healthcare research will also be affected and limited by Brexit.