The National AIDS Trust (NAT) has accused the Department of Health of failing to renew its sexual health and HIV strategy for England, two years after it came to an end.
As part of an event to mark its 25th anniversary at the House of Lords, the charity unveiled its own “shadow” health strategy to tackle the growing rates of HIV infection among gay and bisexual men on Tuesday.
Chief Executive Deborah Jack said: “The government talks about its ongoing commitment in tackling HIV in the UK but for the last two years it hasn’t been prepared to ‘put its money where its mouth is’ by producing a national strategy for England which will then hold them to account”.
Ms Jack added: “Not only does this mean we’re in breach of a UN commitment which promised to have a current and comprehensive strategy in place for tackling HIV, it also seems we’ve given up on our strategic approach at a time when we need it most.”
Professor Jane Anderson, chair of the British HIV Association (BHIVA), welcomed NAT’s report and also expressed wider concerns over the government’s reforms of the NHS, saying:
“We remain concerned that with the reorganisation of the NHS underway, fragmentation of HIV prevention and treatment services risks negatively affecting current standards of HIV care in the UK”.
Professor Anderson added: “BHIVA welcomes this new report from NAT and strongly urges a joined-up, strategic approach from the government to ensure people living with HIV get access to the right treatment and quality of care.”
In response, a spokesperson for the Department of Health said:
“The NHS provides excellent treatment and care that helps many people living with HIV experience a near normal life expectancy if diagnosed early.
“We will be publishing our plans for tackling a wide range of sexual health issues, including HIV, later this year.”
Earlier in the week, the Terrence Higgins Trust, the UK’s largest HIV and sexual health charity announced a reduction in the operating hours of its HIV telephone helpline service after the government withdrew funding.