THT: An extra 250,000 HIV tests per year could slash new infection rates

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Ahead of a major HIV conference Terrence Higgins Trust says an extra 250,000 HIV tests a year could slash new infection rates.

On the eve of the first ever HIV Prevention England conference, when 300 HIV experts will meet in London on Thursday, the charity says England has a “once in a generation” opportunity to turn the tide of its HIV epidemic by 2020.

The trust’s report – titled 2020 Vision: Making England’s HIV prevention response the best in the world – is published tomorrow.

Other targets it outlines include halving the number of people with undiagnosed HIV and ensuring three-quarters of all those with HIV are on treatment and not infectious.

THT is also calling on the government to invest an extra £20 million a year in testing programmes across the UK.

“England is now at a tipping point in its fight against HIV,” THT Acting Chief Executive Paul Ward said.

“Thanks to the NHS, we already lead the world in ensuring people with HIV are on treatment and uninfectious.

“Driving down undiagnosed infection is the final piece of the puzzle.

“With around two-thirds of new infections passed on by people who don’t know their status, the more people we test and treat, the fewer lives will be damaged by this entirely preventable virus.

“All that is needed to achieve this vision is an extra £20million a year investment in coordinated HIV testing programmes; a tiny fraction of the public health budget.

“There is no other health area where, for this size of investment, the state could bring a serious health condition under control.”

Dr Valerie Delpech, head of HIV surveillance at Public Health England, added: “There are now more than 100,000 people living with HIV in the UK, and around one in five remain undiagnosed.

“These individuals are more likely to present with advanced infection, and to pass on the virus.

“It is vital we invest in HIV prevention, to address the social and structural barriers that mean too many people are currently not getting tested, and reduce new HIV infections across the UK.”

Last month, in an exclusive interview with at a THT reception, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the time had come for the UK’s political leaders to redouble their efforts in tackling the HIV epidemic among gay and bisexual men.

Figures released in November last year by Public Health England showed HIV infections among gay and bisexual men at a record high.