Government says it must do more to tackle HIV

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Health secretary Andrew Lansley has admitted that the government can and should do more to tackle HIV rates.

In a response to a recent House of Lords report on HIV and AIDS, he agreed that investment in HIV prevention would offer “significant savings” in the short and long term.

The Lords report, released in August, said the government is not doing enough to tackle the issue and that the priority given to prevention efforts is “woefully inadequate”.

Health Protection Agency figures released at the time showed that 3,000 gay and bisexual men were diagnosed with HIV last year – the highest number recorded.

In a response paper, the health department said it was currently considering spending on prevention strategies in future.

Ministers agreed with many of the Lords committee’s reccommendations, including reducing risky sexual behaviour, targeted prevention programmes for gay and bisexual men and sub-Saharan African communities and encouraging people with HIV to become advocates for others with the condition.

But the department disagreed with the Lords committee’s call for a national HIV prevention campaign, saying there was “little evidence that this would be effective”.

Health minister Anne Milton said: ‘As the report makes clear, we need to reduce undiagnosed HIV so people can benefit from effective treatment and to prevent HIV transmission.

“The government’s modernisation of the NHS and priority for public health provides a good opportunity to improve outcomes for HIV and improve prevention.”

Lisa Power, policy director at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “We welcome the government’s support for HIV prevention and increased testing.

“NHS budgets are under increasing pressure and the number of people living with HIV in the UK continues to rise.

“Stopping infections is far cheaper than treating them, and most new infections come from the one in four people with HIV who don’t yet know they have it. Renewed investment in targeted HIV prevention and testing campaigns is vital, not just for public health but also the public purse.”