The need for a national HIV Action Plan in Scotland
On World AIDS Day 2020, the Scottish Government committed to eliminating new transmissions of HIV by 2030.
In 2022, Scotland’s HIV Transmission Elimination Oversight Group published 22 recommendations as part of the Ending HIV Transmission in Scotland by 2030 proposal, setting out a route map to achieving Scotland’s 2030 goal. However, the proposal was just that – a proposal. It didn't make clear what the Scottish Government would commit to doing and how progress would be tracked.
It's therefore vital that we see the publication and delivery of a robust, funded, Scottish Government HIV Transmission Elimination Delivery Plan.
Scotland is now an outlier in the UK, with both England and Wales now having published their own respective HIV Action Plans. The Scottish Government should deliver on their 2021 manifesto commitment and bring forward a comprehensive and funded framework, setting out how 2030 will be achieved.
This should also include regular and comprehensive data publication, inclusive of testing rates and demographic breakdown, with annual progress updates to Parliament.
Ensuring equitable progress in England
The UK Government released Towards Zero: the HIV Action Plan for England in 2021, setting out its priorities to end new HIV transmissions between 2022 and 2025. The plan came with £20 million of funding over three years (2022 to 2025) to expand HIV opt out testing in emergency departments.
The Government must provide an annual update to Parliament on progress towards the action plan. The first update showed the incredible success of the opt-out testing programme, but very little tangible progress in other areas.
The most recent national HIV data also makes clear the variation in progress being made towards ending new HIV transmission – with some communities being left behind. Overall first-ever diagnoses continues to fall in gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM) but diagnoses increased in GBMSM of Asian and mixed or other ethnicity. Whilst heterosexual men saw a small decline in diagnoses, we saw a big increase in diagnoses in heterosexual women.
The UK Government must deliver on its commitments in the England HIV Action Plan and ensure that equal progress is being made in all communities towards the HIV elimination goal.