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Aids action 'woefully inadequate'

The priority given to preventing HIV and Aids in the UK is "woefully inadequate" and prevention policies must be stepped up, according to a report by a committee of the House of Lords.

The report says numbers accessing care have trebled since 2000 and HIV and Aids remains one of the most serious public health issues confronting the Government.

The report is published on the 25th anniversary of the "Don't Die of Ignorance" campaign, and the select committee was chaired by Lord Fowler, who ran that campaign. The committee found that by next year there will be more than 100,000 people living with HIV, with the number of patients having trebled in the last 10 years.

Treatment costs have increased vastly and now approach £1 billion a year. Although antiretroviral drugs have dramatically cut the death toll, there is still neither vaccine nor cure. More than a quarter of those infected have not been diagnosed and are unaware of their condition.

The committee said better testing must be a priority, and proposed that there should be testing of all new patients at GP surgeries and general medical admissions on the same basis, beginning in areas where the prevalence of HIV is highest.

HIV is entirely preventable, but the latest figures show the Government spent only £2.9 million on national prevention programmes, compared with £762 million on treatment. The committee called for a new national campaign to be launched to tackle the ignorance and misunderstanding which still exists in this area.

Lord Fowler said: "In the last 25 years the development of new drugs has dramatically reduced the death toll but that should not encourage a false sense of security. Acquiring HIV is not remotely consequence-free. Serious medical and mental health problems remain for many with HIV. It leads to a lifetime of treatment."

A Department of Health spokesman said: "Effective treatment through medical advances have transformed the outlook for people with HIV. Today many people are living near normal lives - this is enormously important in reducing any stigma.

"There is still no cure and prevention and safe sex are still as vital as it was 25 years ago. Wearing a condom with all new or casual partners should be normal practice.

"We need to reduce undiagnosed HIV so testing in a variety of health care settings is important, especially in high prevalence areas. The department continues to fund the Terrence Higgins Trust and the African Health Policy Network prevention programmes. This is in tandem with targeted local NHS programmes."


From Belfast Telegraph