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Chancellor Rishi Sunak urged by charities and It’s a Sin cast to tackle HIV in autumn budget

Josh Milton October 26, 2021
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Olly Alexander explains to THT why the government must fund the HIV Action Plan. (Screen capture via Twitter)

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been urged to increase crucial HIV funding ahead of the autumn budget.

More than 1,000 days after the government committed to ending Britain’s HIV epidemic by 2030, activists are still waiting for the government to take action.

Ahead of Wednesday’s (27 October) budget and spending review, the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the Terrence Higgins Trust and more have urged the Treasury to finally fund the HIV Action Plan.

Thirty-five of Britain’s biggest HIV charities, LGBT+ advocacy groups and health bodies – as well as the cast of It’s a Sin – have demanded Sunak announce the money needed to “win the fight against HIV,” according to the joint HIV Commission website.

“I urge the government, do not miss this opportunity,” pleaded singer and actor Olly Alexander in a THT promotional video. “Fund the fight and take the decisions required to end new cases of HIV by 2030.”

His It’s a Sin co-star Callum Scott Howells added: “Expand HIV texting, free at-home testing all year round and tests in hospitals and GPs.”

The Elton John AIDS Foundation added in a tweet: “We still have time to make a difference before tomorrow’s spending review.”

Since March, HIV advocacy groups have called on the public to send letters to their local MP, Rishi Sunak and health secretary Sajid Javid, asking them to allocate crucial cash for the HIV Action Plan.

But “today [Monday] is your last chance”, the Elton John AIDS Foundation stressed, “to write to [Sunak] and [Javid] urging them to fully fund the HIV Action Plan to Achieve [zero HIV by 2030].”

Among the demands are increased access to “life-saving treatments”, better mental health support and new national HIV prevention programmes and campaigns stressing the Undetectable=Untransmittable messaging.

“It has now been 40 years since the first cases of HIV were reported and, despite huge medical advances which mean HIV is thankfully no longer a death sentence, preventable cases of HIV are still happening,” the template letter reads.

Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

“It doesn’t have to be this way. The government has the power to change this in the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review – you can help to end the HIV epidemic in the UK.”

There are around 160,000 Britons living with HIV and an estimated 6,600 living undiagnosed, per data from Public Health England.

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

Thirteen “innovative” schemes were set to use the cash to help reduce the risk of people acquiring the virus and stamp out stigma – but two years down the line, and the HIV Action Plan has not yet been fully financed.

But after Russell T Davies’ harrowing AIDS drama It’s a Sin aired earlier this year, it prompted a surge in the number of people getting tested for the virus.

This, the letter drafted by activists says, has handed the government a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to change countless lives”.

“Action now will have a huge impact and put the country on course to end transmissions by the end of the decade,” the letter adds.

“History will look kindly on the leadership and financial commitment that was made to fight to end new cases in this way.”

Related topics: HIV, It's a Sin

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