Tory mayor of London candidate Shaun Bailey claims he could end new cases of HIV ‘by 2028’

Conservative candidate for the Mayor of London Shaun Bailey

Conservative candidate for mayor of London Shaun Bailey has said he will aim to end HIV transmissions in the city by 2028, two years ahead of a government target.

Bailey, who is the primary challenger to incumbent Labour mayor Sadiq Khan in the delayed election scheduled for May, made the vow in a National HIV Testing Week event for the LGBT+ Conservatives and Terrence Higgins Trust.

The mayoral candidate promised to reallocate ad space on the city’s transport network to promote routine HIV testing if elected, in a bid to cut new transmissions.

According to the Evening Standard, he said: “I want London to be a world leader in tackling HIV and ensuring that, within the decade, by 2028 or the end of two mayoral terms, there are no new transmissions of HIV in London.

“As mayor I will use this platform – and the mayor’s allocation of TfL advertising – to encourage routine testing on HIV to help reach a 100 per cent of cases being diagnosed so that Londoners that need treatment can receive it.”

Shaun Bailey, Conservative candidate for London mayor

Shaun Bailey, Conservative candidate for London mayor (Getty/BEN STANSALL)

There is already an existing city-wide and national target to eliminate HIV transmission entirely by 2030.

As people on effective medication are not able to pass on the virus, eliminating transmission would require diagnosing and treating every person living with the virus undetected.

It’s thought that around 6,600 people in the UK are currently living with undiagnosed HIV.

The city’s mayor Sadiq Khan vowed in 2018: “Taking bold steps like this is exactly what is needed, which is why I have set an ambitious target of achieving zero new HIV infections, zero preventable deaths and zero HIV-related stigma and discrimination – aiming to wipe out AIDS in our city by 2030.”

However, campaigners say that significant investment and policy changes are needed to bolster testing and meet the 2030 target.

The independent HIV Commission said in a report last year that HIV testing should become part of the routine tests carried out in GP surgeries and emergency departments.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has raised concerns within the sector, as testing rates and diagnoses have both fallen significantly during lockdown.

A report from Public Health England last month found an overall decline in tests and diagnoses since April 2020, after the implementation of nationwide social and physical distancing measures.

While free home-testing kits for HIV have been available via post in the UK for several years, polling suggests just 16 per cent of people know they are available for free. Some figures have sustained criticism for advertising paid-for products during HIV Testing Week.