In Depth

How England aims to wipe out HIV transmission by 2030

Health Secretary Matt Hancock unveils plan to become first country with no new infections

The UK government is to commit to ending new HIV transmissions in England by the year 2030.

Speaking at the Aidsfree Cities Global Forum in London today, Health Secretary Matt Hancock is to set a goal of “no new infections” in the next decade, and will pledge to direct funding to reduce the risk of people contracting or passing on the virus.

The Department for Health and Social Care “has also confirmed that an expert group will now be established to develop an action plan over the course of 2019”, reports TheGayUK news site.

Prevention will be at the heart of the commitment, alongside measurable action points for each group at risk of infection.

The UK has already “had huge success in treating the disease”, says The Independent.

The nation met the UN’s “90-90-90” targets in November, ahead of the 2020 deadline - by diagnosing 92% of all HIV positive people; providing treatment for 98% of those diagnosed; and achieving viral suppression for 97% of those treated, which means they can’t pass on HIV.

Hancock is expected to say: “HIV and Aids are challenges that we must rise to. The injustice, the unfairness, and the sadness they have brought must be tackled by us all.

“My generation grew up knowing Aids was a potential death sentence. That doesn’t have to be the case anymore. Thanks to medical breakthroughs, public health campaigns, breaking down stigma and better education, Aids is no longer a death sentence here.” 

Announcing £600,000 of funding for the new initiative, he will continue: “Today we’re setting a new goal - eradicating HIV transmission in England by 2030.” 

As well as safer sex practices and regular testing, progress in eradicating the disease has been boosted by “adding two even more powerful tools to our kit”, writes Matt Stokes, a supporter of Aids charity the Terrence Higgins Trust, in an article for Metro.

“Firstly, the knowledge that people on effective treatment cannot pass the virus on; and, secondly, the arrival of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), a drug which is highly effective at preventing transmission,” Stokes says.

A national trial of the NHS-funded drug found PrEP “to be up to 99% effective in stopping HIV take hold in the body when transmitted”, says The Daily Telegraph.

The estimated number of new infections among gay and bisexual men has more than halved since 2012, from around 2,700 to 1,200 in 2017.

“Today’s commitment is a seminal moment in the fight to end new HIV transmissions in England,” said Ian Green, chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust.

“We now have the tools to end HIV transmissions. Through regular HIV testing, condom use, access to PrEP, prevention information and advice, and effective treatment which means people living with HIV cannot pass on the virus, we can stop HIV in its tracks.”

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