One year after we released the ground-breaking HIV Commission report, the UK Government has today published its national HIV Action Plan detailing how it will meet its commitment to end new HIV cases in England by 2030 and meet interim targets by 2025.
It implements key recommendations of the Commission including committing £20m over three years to fund opt-out HIV testing in accident and emergency departments (A&E) in the areas with highest HIV prevalence and annual reporting to Parliament on progress to ensure the 2030 goal is hit.
While this investment is welcome, in many other areas the action plan does not go far enough with detailed actions yet to be defined. To tackle the inequalities that are at the heart of progress on HIV, more is needed, including concrete action to make PrEP available in the community as well as consistent access to support services for all people living with HIV who need them.
Ian Green, Chief Executive at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: 'There’s clear evidence that an opt-out approach to HIV testing makes a big impact in driving up testing rates and finding those living with undiagnosed HIV. Today’s £20m for opt-out testing in A&E in areas with the highest prevalence of HIV is therefore a vital step as we target the end of new HIV cases by 2030 in the UK.
'This is the first new national money for HIV testing for almost a decade and keeps alive that life-changing Government commitment to end new cases in fewer than 10 years. But there is still so much more to do to make it a reality. To really get on track, we need to see opt-out testing scaled up across the country to ensure equitable progress in more areas, alongside training for those involved.
'Ramping up HIV testing isn’t just about numbers – it’s about addressing the inequalities that continue to exacerbate the HIV epidemic and ensure we see progress across all groups, including those traditionally most impacted by HIV. That’s why we strongly welcome the action plan’s signal of intent to ensure free HIV test kits to do at home are available across the country – this needs to available all year round and accessible to all who could benefit. As well as a target of 90% of people attending sexual health clinics being offered a test while there and work done to normalise HIV testing across all populations.
'HIV prevention pill PrEP is now available uncapped via sexual health clinics. But there’s much, much more needed to properly utilise PrEP beyond gay and bisexual men in major cities. The action plan doesn’t go far enough on this. 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.
'Reaching the 2030 goal is not just about prevention. It’s also crucial the 107,000 people living with HIV in this country have the support they need to live well. The plan’s mandatory training for healthcare professionals will make a big impact on tackling HIV stigma – which we know is a significant issue across healthcare. But we want the Government to go further – to ensure that there is consistent access to good quality HIV support services across the country.
'Around 80 people are still diagnosed with HIV every week in the UK – despite us having the tools to prevent transmissions. That’s why the life-changing goal of ending new cases of HIV by 2030 must be met, starting with the interim target in 2025 of an 80% reduction in new cases. Today is a step change but there’s still a long way still to go before we can say we’re throwing everything we’ve got at our HIV target. Including the funding and actions to back up the vision.'