The provision of HIV testing beyond Genito-Urinary Medicine, into settings where people are most likely to use them, has proved a complex issue. Challenges to expanded testing include the low level of awareness of the benefits of testing as a driver of HIV prevention among politicians and healthcare professionals, limited available resource and the continued stigma associated with an HIV positive diagnosis.
From 2009 Cello Health Public Affairs played an active role in bringing together the nation’s leading experts and advocates in HIV, from all parts of the UK, to work in common cause and campaign with policy makers to reduce late and undiagnosed HIV. Meeting quarterly, over 6 years, the campaign-group developed a series of expert publications and research to raise awareness in a range of healthcare and community settings where HIV tests can be deployed and to assess the changing attitudes of healthcare professionals towards the offer of an HIV test. This information was then shared with policy makers, other experts and advocates through a series of successful events and meetings.
The initiative drew on the expertise of 31 expert organisations under the independent observation of Public Health England (PHE) and The Department of Health. The group provided evidence on the economic and clinical benefits of HIV testing to the 2010 House of Lords Select Committee Inquiry on HIV and reports developed by thee All Party Parliamentary Group on HIV and AIDS. We enabled engagement with local health services and unitary authorities. Council Resolutions in support of expanded HIV testing were passed in 20 high-HIV-prevalence local authorities.
In support of these activities, a national PHEs Framework to prevent the late detection of HIV was established, supported by national HIV testing guidance from NICE alongside letters in support of expanded-HIV-testing from the UK Chief Medical and Nursing Officers. In 2016, a total 18% decline in HIV diagnoses was reported by PHE in all groups.
2017 saw significant decline in the number of new HIV diagnoses among gay and bi-sexual men in the UK. In October, PHE reported that the number of new HIV cases had dropped from 3,570 in 2015 to 2,810 in 2016. The decline was particularly steep among those living in London, who saw a 29% fall. PHE attributed the result to regular and frequent testing, as well as prompt diagnosis and treatment.