Caroline Nokes MP was one of a number of Members of Parliament who attended a World AIDS Day event hosted by the Halve It campaign and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on HIV & AIDS. MPs and Peers took a confidential point-of-care test administered by clinicians from the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, in demonstration of the UK’s policy commitment to HIV testing and in an act of solidarity with all those living with HIV across the world every day of the year. This was the fourth HIV testing marathon run by the Halve It campaign. Earlier this year, a record 18 parliamentarians took an HIV test. During the event members of the Halve It Steering Group, including leading HIV clinicians and CEOs of patient and policy organisations, spoke with parliamentarians about the imperative for expanded HIV testing in a variety of settings.
After meeting people living with HIV, Caroline said: ‘HIV is a significant public health issue across the country. I am proud to support the Halve It campaign and the critical work of its local and national members to drive awareness around HIV testing and reduce late diagnosed and undiagnosed HIV’
This year’s event featured exhibitors who are leading Halve It Local groups designed to drive implementation of HIV testing guidance in specific regions by addressing local issues relating to late diagnosed and undiagnosed HIV in their area.
Supporting the launch of the latest version of the Halve It position paper, Early testing saves lives, the Prime Minister commented ‘HIV still remains a major public health concern, and late diagnosis is one of the biggest obstacles in the fight against the spread of HIV in the UK…We have already undertaken moves to ensure testing is made easier and more widely available, but it is recognised that we cannot be complacent in our aim to increase the early diagnosis of HIV cases.’
In the UK an estimated 103,700 people live with HIV every day of the year; 17% of these are undiagnosed and 40% are diagnosed late. The sooner HIV is diagnosed the sooner appropriate care can begin, and thanks to medical advancements the life expectancy of someone living with HIV has increased markedly in recent years. By ensuring that HIV testing becomes routine there will be significant long-term savings; NICE estimates that if testing guidance was implemented fully, 3,500 cases of onward transmission could be prevented within 5 years, saving the NHS £18 million per year in treatment costs.
Halve It is a national campaign that focuses on the expansion of HIV testing services, on the basis that early testing of HIV saves lives and also results in substantial savings to the public health budget. Since its inception in 2010, Halve It and its members have galvanised national and local cross-party support for HIV testing, most recently with the passing of a council resolution on HIV testing in many local authorities with a high prevalence of HIV. The campaign is supported in its aims by the Prime Minister, the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, and the leader of the Liberal Democrats.