Brighton MPs promise to halve undiagnosed HIV by 2015

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Brighton MPs Simon Kirby and Caroline Lucas have welcomed the Department of Health’s decision to support a cross-party policy document on HIV prevention.

The Halve It campaign, produced by HIV charities Terrence Higgins Trust and National AIDS Trust, aims to cut estimated undiagnosed HIV infections in half by 2015.

Both MPs said on World AIDS Day earlier this month that they would incorporate the Halve It target as a city-wide objective for Brighton and Hove, which has one of the highest HIV rates in the country.

Last week, the Department of Health said: “We really welcome the Halve It campaign. Encouraging HIV testing is everyone’s business – the NHS, charities and groups, individuals, the media and industry.”

Mr Kirby, the Tory MP for Brighton Kemptown, is the vice-chair of the All-Parliamentary Group for HIV/AIDS. He said he was “delighted” that the government would support the campaign.

Calling the target “ambitious and admirable”, he said: “I am delighted that the government will support the coalition of experts involved in the Halve It Campaign in achieving their goal.”

But Ms Lucas, the MP for Brighton Pavilion and leader of the Green Party, added: “What we really need is a much stronger commitment from the government to properly address the issue – and, importantly, some assurances that greater resources will be made available for those working in HIV detection”.

Head of public affairs at Terrence Higgins Trust, Catherine Murphy, said she was pleased with the Department of Health’s support, but the chief executive of the National AIDS Trust, Deborah Jack, said the government needed to publish further details.

“The Halve It campaign requires leadership and support from the top – and it would be good to know what plans the government has to reduce significantly the rates of late HIV diagnosis in the UK,” she said.

The campaign calls for the government to establish a national screening programme and to make HIV testing more accessible.

Labour’s shadow health minister Diane Abbott also welcomed the Department of Health’s statement of support, along with the chairman of LGBTory, Matthew Sephton.

Mr Sephton said: “Without high-profile campaigns such as the Halve It one, it is unlikely that such attitudes [concerning HIV] will alter”.

He also confirmed that his group would be raising the issue of HIV with prime minister David Cameron in the coming weeks.