Public health funding boost needed to end HIV transmission, warns Khan

Ministers have committed to reducing transmission by 80% by 2025 and ending it entirely by 2030, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

Sadiq Khan (credit LDRS/Noah Vickers)
Sadiq Khan (credit LDRS/Noah Vickers)

Sadiq Khan has called on the government to boost public health funding in order to meet its target of ending the transmission of HIV across England by 2030.

As part of that goal, ministers have also committed to reducing transmission by 80% by 2025, compared with 2019 levels.

The London mayor warned that this deadline – now just one year away – is unlikely to be hit without increased public health funding for the capital’s borough councils.

The government hit back at Khan, saying it was making “strong progress” towards its 2030 target and has allocated £3.5bn for local authorities to fund their public health services.

According to the latest data, the number of HIV diagnoses across England rose by 22% from 3,118 in 2021 to 3,805 in 2022. The rise in London specifically was 17%. This increase has almost completely reversed a significant drop in infections which was seen during the pandemic, bringing diagnoses across England virtually back to where they were in 2019.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said that most of the nationwide increase “is attributable to people previously diagnosed abroad, a 69% increase from 805 in 2021 to 1,361 in 2022. These infections were likely acquired abroad and therefore do not reflect a rise in transmission in England.”

In a letter to Health Secretary Victoria Atkins this week, the mayor said the government should boost councils’ funding to increase testing outside of A&E, provide extra funding to support voluntary organisations, and widen access to PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) – a drug which dramatically reduces the risk of contracting HIV – to the most vulnerable communities.

Khan said: “I’m proud that London is leading the way in tackling HIV globally and that ending new HIV cases is within our reach.

“However, despite the incredible progress that has been made due to the work of partners across the capital, the government has failed to back up its words with sufficient action.

“Local authorities have been hit with a real-terms decrease to their public health budgets, and with only one year left to hit the target of reducing new infections by 80%, ministers must fully commit to ending HIV in England. I am committed to doing all I can to work with partners to end HIV transmission by 2030 as we build a better London for all, but we urgently need further support.”

A spokeswoman at the Department for Health and Social Care said: “We are making strong progress in identifying, treating, and supporting people who have HIV – and in meeting our goal to end all transmissions of HIV in England by 2030.

“NHS England has invested £20m to deliver opt-out testing for HIV in A&E departments where rates are most prevalent, which includes London. This has been hugely successful, delivering over 1.5 million tests and helping to find more than 1,000 cases of undiagnosed or untreated HIV in its first 21 months.

“We have committed an additional £20m for new research to expand the programme to 47 new sites across England. This is alongside the £3.5bn allocated to local authorities to fund public health services, including sexual health services.”

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