PRESS RELEASE: Department of Health publishes new Sexual Health Framework

"WHILST ASPIRATIONAL - IT LACKS strong STRATEGIC LEADERSHIP on HIV," SAYS CHAIR OF BRITISH HIV ASSOCIATION

FOR INTERVIEW: Professor Jane Anderson, Chair of the British HIV Association

Friday 15th March 2013 The Department Of Health today published its long-awaited Sexual Health Framework, replacing the National Strategy for Sexual Health and HIV, the Department's first coordinated strategy published in 2001. This new document has been published as a 'framework', and not a 'strategy', and sets out a collection of the Department's aspirations towards improving the nation's sexual health.

According to the Chair of the British HIV Association (BHIVA), Professor Jane Anderson, "The Framework pays far too little attention to HIV at a time when infection rates are high, late diagnosis is common, and almost a quarter of people with HIV in the UK are unaware of their infection. Combating HIV involves almost every discipline and area of government policy, from Science through to Education, Economics and Social science. This means a strategy that gets all stakeholders around the table working to a coordinated plan."

The framework is being launched against a background of imminent changes to sexual health and HIV commissioning and restructuring (April, 2013), plus worrying levels of HIV infection and complacency amongst some population groups.

  • Almost 100,000 people in the UK are living with HIV - one quarter of whom are undiagnosed
  • Numbers of people with newly diagnosed HIV infection continue to increase
  • There are more than 30,000 men who have sex with men (MSM) living with HIV in the UK - it is estimated nearly a third of these are currently undiagnosed and unaware that they are infected
  • An estimated 1 in 11 men who have sex with men (MSM) in London are HIV positive
  • New diagnoses in this group alone (MSM) have increased by 70% in the past 10 years
  • In 2009 alone, more than 2,000 people from black Africans backgrounds in the UK were diagnosed with HIV infection, one-third of all new diagnoses in the UK

"We are very concerned," said Prof Anderson. "The changes in health care that are coming into effect in April risk fragmentation of what is currently a highly effective and cohesive area of medicine."

In the U.K, outcomes for people with HIV who are diagnosed early, and who adhere to clinical care, are amongst the best in the world. Frequent testing and good education enable early diagnosis. Conversely, those diagnosed late are 10 times more likely to die in the first year after diagnosis.

"HIV is treatable, and if diagnosed in time, people with HIV can expect to have a long future ahead of them. Sadly, opportunities for longer life expectancy for people with HIV are being thrown away; firstly by lack of prevention and poor education, and secondly through late diagnosis."

"HIV is an entirely preventable condition. To really make a difference we urgently need a robust national strategy that tackles all aspects of HIV infection in the UK. Although this framework is a step in the right direction much more is needed if we are to get on top of HIV in this country."


Media enquiries / arrange an interview with Professor Jane Anderson, Chair of BHIVA:
Ruth Delacour at ROAD Communications
e. ruth@roadcommunications.co.uk
t. 0208 995 5832 / 07803 598838