Cllr Alan Hall has joined campaigners calling for government action to end new cases of HIV in the UK by 2030. Lewisham has one of the highest rates of HIV infection in the country.
HIV charities and organisations formed a HIV Commission in 2020 and published a report on the 1st December 2020 which is World AIDS Day. The report found that HIV testing is crucial to ending new HIV transmissions in England by 2030.
“By increasing testing, we can stop HIV in its tracks and make sure more people can access life-saving HIV treatment. Yet, despite testing being cost effective and taking just minutes to do, access remains inconsistent.” – HIV Commissioners
In 2019, there were nearly 550,000 missed opportunities to test for HIV in specialist sexual health services, with over 252,000 incidents of an HIV test not even being offered.
“Every missed opportunity to test someone for HIV is a failure to them, and to the goal of ending new transmissions. Stigma is often a key factor in declining an HIV test, this is well documented, particularly for Black African communities,” the report’s authors said.
Russell T Davies, Olly Alexander and Callum Scott Howells from hit Channel 4 drama It’s A Sin have joined forces with long-time campaigner Sir Elton John have made a new film demanding that the UK Government ‘fund the fight’ to ensure its goal of ending new HIV cases by 2030 is achieved.
Russell T Davies, creator of It’s A Sin, said: ‘The show has had a bigger impact than we ever dared hope. My initial motivation was to tell stories of love and loss that had gone untold for far too long. But it’s clear how much has still to be done in 2021.
‘The response to what we created has been overwhelming, but too many people’s views and knowledge of HIV are still firmly rooted in the 1980s. If we can play even a tiny part in helping to change that while supporting the work of charities and activists to end new HIV cases in this country by 2030, then what a wonderful legacy that would be.’
Florence Obadeyi, who is living with HIV, said: ‘Getting tested for HIV while pregnant was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It meant my child was born without HIV because of interventions they can make prior to birth and means I was able to access the medication and support I needed to keep me well.
‘If I hadn’t decided to have a baby and been testing during standard prenatal checks, I don’t know how long it would have been before I received my diagnosis. That’s exactly why we need to see HIV testing happening across healthcare.’
Campaigners say that the funding should be included in the Comprehensive Spending Review on Wednesday 27 October where public spending will be allocated for the next three years.
Local Councils fund HIV work through their public health departments. The local NHS deliver much of this work.
Dear Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid,
Fund the fight to end new cases of HIV by 2030
Lewisham has one of the highest rates of HIV and AIDS in Europe.
Every week 80 lives in the UK are changed forever because they are diagnosed with HIV.
It has now been 40 years since the first cases of HIV were reported and, despite huge medical advances which mean HIV is thankfully no longer a death sentence, preventable cases of HIV are still happening.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The government has the power to change this in the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review – you can help to end the HIV epidemic in the UK. It has been nearly 1,000 days since Department for Health and Social Care Ministers committed to doing this by 2030. The clock is now ticking.
Millions of people in the UK watched Channel 4’s drama It’s A Sin, seeing the agonising destruction HIV/AIDS caused so many lives in the early days of the epidemic. This show galvanised thousands of people to test for HIV – many for the first time.
Now the government needs to play its part. That’s why I’m writing to you both to ask that you seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity to change countless lives.
Across the UK, there are at least 6,600 people who are living with HIV but are not diagnosed. There are still over half a million people who leave a sexual health clinic but don’t test for HIV. And there are still people who are being diagnosed so late that their health is irreversibly impacted.
At the Dispatch Box on World AIDS Day 2020, the Chancellor underlined the government’s commitment to ending the domestic HIV epidemic within the decade:
‘As we remember those we have lost to HIV and AIDS, we also remind ourselves of the need for further action. I am proud that this Conservative Government’s policy is to end new HIV transmission by 2030—a commitment reaffirmed today at the launch of the HIV Commission.’
Now I ask you both to turn these words into action.
We need the government to fully fund its new HIV Action Plan as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review. The government promised to ‘build back better’ after the COVID-19 pandemic; now is the time to do this in the fight to end HIV.
Here’s what must happen:
- Expand HIV testing. Everyone needs to know their HIV status be able to get HIV treatment if needed. Free at-home testing all year round and tests in hospitals and GPs in areas of high rates of HIV in England.
- Greater support for people living with HIV. Regardless of where someone lives in the country, they should have access to life-saving treatment, mental health, and support services, so they can enjoy healthier lives.
- Increased funding for HIV prevention. More people need to be aware of and have access to the HIV prevention drug PrEP.
- New national HIV prevention programmes and campaigns. These must inform and educate people about the realities of HIV in 2021, stopping HIV stigma including Undetectable=Untransmittable messaging.
Action now will have huge impact and put the country on course to end transmissions by the end of the decade. History will look kindly on the leadership and financial commitment that was made to fight to end new cases in this way.
I urge the government not to miss this opportunity. Fund the fight and take the decisions required to end new cases of HIV by 2030. We need action now.
Cllr Alan Hall
London Borough of Lewisham