UK: National AIDS Trust calls for the NHS to provide earlier HIV treatment

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The National AIDS Trust (NAT) is calling on the NHS to allow people with HIV to start treatment early in order to protect their sexual partners after two leading HIV clinical bodies – the British HIV Association (BHIVA) and the Expert Advisory Group on AIDS (EAGA) – authoritatively set out the scientific basis for HIV treatment as prevention.

In a statement on Tuesday, BHIVA and EAGA stated how treatment as prevention reduces HIV transmissions. By using HIV drugs to reduce the levels of the virus in their system people with HIV can become virtually non-infectious.

Deborah Jack, chief executive of NAT said: “A number of people with HIV want to start treatment early to lessen the chances of passing the virus on, meaning less worry for them but also fewer HIV transmissions, saving the NHS many hundreds of thousands of pounds.

“NAT approached BHIVA and EAGA to investigate the scientific basis for treatment as prevention. It’s great to see this work come to fruition and to see these respected medical bodies endorse treatment as a way to tackle the rising numbers of people living with HIV in the UK.

Ms Jack added: “We now call on the NHS Commissioning Board to accept these respected agencies’ recommendations and provide HIV treatment early to all those who wish to start it. This will provide important reassurance for many people living with HIV. It also highlights the need for society’s understanding of HIV to change and keep up with medical developments.”

Ms Jack concluded: “As a matter of urgency we need to reduce undiagnosed HIV and maximise the proportion of people with HIV who are tested, and accessing good quality treatment and care. At a time of such massive change within the NHS it is imperative that the newly created Public Health England ensures we don’t lose ground on HIV testing but rather make further and significant progress in getting everyone with HIV diagnosed and into treatment and care.”

According to the most recent figures from the Health Protection Agency, 3,010 gay and bisexual men tested positive for HIV in 2011, the highest ever number of HIV diagnoses among the group.