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Progress on PrEP and lobbying for SRE: HIV and sexual health successes in 2016

Progress on PrEP and lobbying for SRE: HIV and sexual health successes in 2016

campaigners marching during Pride

Alex Phillips, Campaigns and Parliamentary Officer, looks back on the seven biggest successes of the last year in terms of HIV and sexual health.

We know that PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) works. We also know that 17 people a day are diagnosed with HIV in the UK. 17 – every single day. That’s why we’ve championed PrEP throughout this year, in public and behind closed doors, to ensure its availability to those at risk of HIV.

We’ve also campaigned tirelessly for young people to have the sex and relationships education (SRE) they want and need. SRE needs to be about more than just biology and be broadened out to cover consent, gender identity and LGBT sex and relationships. 

As always, there have been ups and downs in 2016 for HIV and sexual health, but let’s focus on the progress that’s been achieved:

Successes

1. Earlier this month Public Health England announced that they would be planning a large scale 10,000 person strong, three year PrEP trial.

Although there are many unanswered questions about the trial and its accessibility, it’s a good step forward for HIV prevention in the UK. We contributed to this success through our work with both the coalition group United4PrEP and at London Pride. We have also kept the pressure in Parliament, and raised it when we met with the Minister for Public Health Nicola Blackwood MP.

2. In July we published our LGBT-inclusive SRE report Shh…No Talking and launched the broader SRE campaign ‘End the Silence’. We found that a whopping 95 per cent of young people hadn’t been taught about LGBT sex and relationships, while only 25 per cent of young people had covered consent in SRE lessons. 

We held events in Parliament and lobbied MPs, including a round-table discussion on SRE hosted by Caroline Nokes MP, an SRE speed-teaching session hosted by the All-Party-Parliamentary Group on HIV and AIDS, and our current ‘All I Want For Christmas…is compulsory SRE’ campaign. We made sure young people were at the heart of it all.

This means that we now seem to be closer than ever before to compulsory SRE for all young people in all schools.

3. We ensured that the current government review on blood donations was broadened to include both former sex workers and former intravenous drug users, as well as men who have sex with men.

4. This year we heard from over 300 people living with HIV aged 50 or over as part of our research project focused on HIV and ageing. The research, carried out in partnership with 12 peer researchers – people aged 50 or over themselves living with HIV – examined the needs and experiences of individuals as they age with HIV. It will be published early next year.

5. Over the last year we have been working with partners across the HIV sector to highlight the worrying trend of local authorities scrapping essential HIV support services.

As part of the coalition HIV Support: Stop the Cuts campaign, we have been asking people to write to their local council to ask what they are doing to support local people living with HIV.

6. This year saw us step up our policy work in Wales. There is vast inequality in access to HIV and sexual health services across the country. We briefed Assembly Members, met with the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Minister for Health, and held our first European Testing Week event in the Senedd.

The Welsh government has now announced it will set up a Sexual Health Programme Board as well as a review of sexual health services.

7. Our parliamentary work has soared this year – we have briefed more MPs and peers and supported more politicians to champion HIV and sexual health in parliament and locally. We want to sustain this momentum and build on these relationships in 2017.

Whether it’s PrEP, SRE, ageing with HIV, or cuts to local authority public health budgets, keep up with everything that’s happening in the new year by following us on Twitter via @thtorguk.

Find out more about our campaigns, including how you can get involved.

Alex PhillipsAlex Phillips is Campaigns and Parliamentary Officer at Terrence Higgins Trust.

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