UK government vows to end HIV/AIDS transmissions by 2030

Health Secretary Matt Hancock on July 9, 2018 in London, England.

The UK government has signed up to a pledge to end HIV transmissions by 2030.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock made the commitment ahead of a summit at the AIDSfree Cities Global Forum on Wednesday (January 30).

The UK has already beaten the global 2020 targets for HIV prevention, with just 4,363 new cases diagnosed in 2017.

Under the pledge, the aim is to reduce new HIV diagnoses to zero by 2030.

As part of the commitment, the government will invest new funding in prevention efforts, specifically targeting gay and bisexual men, persons who inject drugs and African and minority ethnic (BAME) groups.

£600,000 in funding will go to 13 local innovative initiatives to help reduce the risk of people contracting or passing on HIV, reduce stigma, and reach under-served populations.

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt has also pledged government funding to match up to £2 million to tackle the issue globally.

 HIV campaign: London's iconic St. Paul's Cathedral turns Red on World AIDS Day 2010

London’s iconic St. Paul’s Cathedral turns Red on World AIDS Day 2010 (John D McHugh/RED via Getty)

Hancock will say: “HIV and AIDS are challenges that we must rise to. The injustice, the unfairness, and the sadness they have brought and bring to this day 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.”

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Hancock adds: “I feel proud that Britain has made such progress. But when I think about what’s going on elsewhere, I feel anger that our progress is not yet reflected around the world.

“We’re all part of the global solution to this global challenge. What we do locally in London, in Delhi, In Nairobi, in Maputo, in Kiev, in Atlanta, in other cities, has an impact globally.

“So today we’re setting a new goal: eradicating HIV transmission in England by 2030. No new infections within the next decade.

“Becoming one of the first countries to reach the UN zero infections target by 2030. From the ultra local to the truly global. That’s the approach we must take to eliminate AIDS.”

HIV campaigners call for roll-out of PrEP

The commitment was welcomed by HIV campaigners, who also called for the roll-out HIV prevention method Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), which is currently only available in England as part of a limited trial.

Clinicians recently backed calls for the trial to double in size after places for gay and bisexual men filled up at many trial sites, leaving them without access to PrEP. Despite getting the backing of NHS England, the decision to expand the trial has been stalled.

Ian Green, Chief Executive of Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “Today’s commitment is a seminal moment in the fight to end new HIV transmissions in England. In becoming one of the first nations to make such a commitment, the Government has shown decisive leadership on HIV and we applaud them for making this pledge.”

He added:  “For England to reach zero new HIV transmissions, the Department for Health & Social Care, Public Health England, alongside local authorities, must now urgently work in collaboration to address some of the most pressing HIV issues.

“These include stepping up HIV testing to ensure the 8,000 people who remain undiagnosed can get onto treatment, immediately adding more places to the PrEP trial and ensuring sexual health services are properly funded. Without these actions, this commitment simply won’t be achievable.”