An open letter from political leaders across the city to the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock MP, has said Brighton & Hove can be a leading example to the rest of England in action to normalise HIV testing and meet the national target of ending new cases of HIV by 2030.
The letter is sent as part of National HIV Testing Week and ahead of an event organised by Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) about Normalising HIV Testing in A&E across the country.
In a letter to the Department for Health and Social Care chief, councillors and MPs have described the city as having ‘some of the best online testing services in the country’. Brighton & Hove, which accounts for the second highest rates of new HIV cases each year outside of London, has been at the forefront of innovation in HIV testing, with tests available in vending machines in a bid to normalise testing and increase access.
Signed by Phélim Mac Cafferty, Leader of Brighton & Hove City Council, Caroline Lucas MP, Lloyd Russell MoyleMP and Peter Kyle MP, the letter proposes that Brighton & Hove starts work to help inform efforts to end the domestic HIV epidemic.
“We are the perfect place to make this happen. The council, its MPs and the key services share the vision of ending new cases of HIV and will work across the system to normalise HIV testing and fight HIV-related stigma.”
The UK government has pledged to end new cases of HIV within the decade in England. In its final report, the national HIV Commission, which published a series of recommendations on how to achieve this goal, urged ministers to ‘test, test, test’. At present there are 5,900 people living with HIV in England who remain undiagnosed. This puts their health at serious harm and increases the risk of the virus being passed on.
The letter goes on to say: “We are sure your department and NHS England are looking at what new advice, programmes and funding needs to be in place to make this happen. With some of the new funds that we are sure you will make available, Brighton & Hove would like to put itself forward as an early implementer for the national aspiration of normalising HIV testing across health services – we are eager to get this underway and would be honoured to be the first to make it happen.”
Ian Green, chief executive of THT, said: “The HIV Commission called on the NHS to normalise HIV testing across the board and for local government to plan how it will actively help meet the goal on zero new cases of HIV by 2030. This initiative by Brighton & Hove Council and city’s political leadership does both at once. The ability of individuals to order a free home sample HIV test this National HIV Testing Week does not take away from the pressing need for the NHS to mainstream HIV testing to all those accessing A&E, signing up for a GP practice and in instances where blood is already taken.”
The letter was sent at the start of National HIV Testing Week, which is a national campaign to encourage people to get tested at home. Anyone living in England can order a free test via the It Starts With Me website.
You can read the letter in full by clicking here