Major HIV charities demand Tories keep promise to finally end HIV epidemic by 2030

Rishi Sunak pictured at a 2020 press conference.

35 major HIV charities, LGBT+ groups and health bodies are urging the government to commit to fully funding its promise to end HIV transmissions in the UK by 2030.

More than 1,000 days after committing to ending the UK’s HIV epidemic, the government has yet to “turn these words into action”, according to a letter addressed to Rishi Sunak on Thursday (30 September).

Signed by the Terrence Higgins Trust, the National AIDS Trust and the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the letter calls on the Chancellor of the Exchequer to fully fund the government’s new HIV Action Plan.

“Every week 80 lives in the UK are changed forever because they are diagnosed with HIV,” they write. “It has now been 40 years since the first cases of HIV were reported and, despite huge medical advances which mean HIV is no longer a death sentence, preventable cases of HIV are still happening.

“It doesn’t have to be this way. You have the power to change this in the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review – you can help to end the HIV epidemic in the UK. It has been nearly 1,000 days since the government committed to doing this by 2030. The clock is now ticking.”

The letter highlights the phenomenal response to Channel 4’s drama It’s a Sin, which portrayed the “agonising destruction” the virus caused in the early days of the epidemic.

The show galvanised thousands of people to get tested, many for the first time in their lives, and drove many to demand political action to end new transmissions within the decade.

“Now the government needs to play its part,” the charities state frankly.

“Across the UK, there are at least 6,600 people who are living with HIV but are not diagnosed. There are still more than half a million people who leave a sexual health clinic but don’t test for HIV.
And there are still people who are being diagnosed so late that their health is irreversibly impacted.”

In 2019 the government said its work to end new transmissions would be supported by £600,000 from Public Health England’s HIV Prevention Innovation Fund.

This money was earmarked for “13 innovative UK schemes” to help reduce the risk of people getting the virus and reduce stigma.

More than two years later, the HIV Action Plan still has not been fully financed, the letter says. More is desperately needed to expand HIV testing, increase funding for HIV prevention, strengthen support for those living with the disease and establish new national HIV prevention programmes and campaigns.

These campaigns must inform and educate people about the realities of the virus in 2021, stopping stigma including sharing more widely the effectiveness of treatment and Undetectable=Untransmittable messaging.

“Action now will have huge impact and put the country on course to end transmissions by the end of the decade,” the letter continues. “History will look kindly on the leadership and financial commitment that was made to fight to end new cases in this way.”