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HIV Action Plan

Volume 747: debated on Wednesday 20 March 2024

Our 2021 HIV action plan sets out actions to achieve no new HIV transmissions by 2030 in England. To deliver that, the Department of Health and Social Care is investing more than £4.5 million between 2021 and 2025 to deliver the HIV prevention programme.

Happy St Cuthbert’s day, Mr Speaker. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on all the work done in the fight against HIV, but does he agree that if we are to reach our commitment of zero transmissions by 2030, we need a four-pronged approach that includes improved sex education, an expansion of opt-out testing, better availability of pre-exposure prophylaxis, and finding the 13,000 people with HIV who are lost to care?

My hon. Friend’s suggestions are right. Through opt-out testing, we have identified 1,000 cases of undiagnosed and untreated HIV. We have expanded that testing to a further 47 emergency rooms, so that we can find even more people. On the availability of PrEP, we are gathering evidence to understand why some population groups who would benefit from it are not accessing it; this is still an important area of work for us as a Government.

Since the funding has been secured for opt-out HIV testing in very high prevalence areas as part of the HIV action plan that I published when I was Minister for public health in 2021, the scheme has far exceeded expectations; over 4,000 people were newly diagnosed with HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C in just four cities in 21 months. The scheme also disproportionately identified women, people of black African ethnicity and older people with those blood-borne diseases. Will my right hon. Friend update the House on progress in expanding the programme to an additional 47 hospitals across England, including in Derby and Nottingham, and confirm that work is under way to ensure that opt-out testing will continue beyond April 2025?

I put on record my thanks to my hon. Friend for the amazing work she did in the Department; the initiative has been a great success story. It is amazing that we have been able to find more cases, which is precisely why an extra £20 million has been allocated to increase the testing. I will write to colleagues in the Department of Health and Social Care about what will happen post 2025, but we are doing lots of other work with partners, such as the Terrence Higgins Trust, to ensure that we do everything we can to make this important goal a reality.

In Northern Ireland, we have a proactive HIV action plan, but it is always good to share information about the work that is done here, and the work that is done back home. What discussions has the Minister had with the Department of Health in Northern Ireland on extending the HIV action plan guidelines to Northern Ireland? Let us exchange good ideas and move forward together.

I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman that we should always share information and best practice. I will make sure that colleagues in the Department of Health and Social Care hear his request and ensure that happens. At the end of the day, it is in all our shared interests to get to that goal by 2030.