Government Sexual Health Framework - NAT comments.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Deborah Jack, chief executive, National AIDS Trust: "Today the government published its long-awaited Framework for Sexual Health Improvement in England. Whilst it is heartening to see that it deals with HIV as a sexually transmitted infection in great detail and that the key tools for tackling the HIV epidemic – testing and prevention - are give the emphasis they deserve, the document does not go far enough. 

"Over 100,000 people are living with HIV in the UK, approximately one in twenty gay and bisexual men, and one in twenty African men and women.  Almost half of people with HIV are diagnosed after treatment should have started - indicating that they are likely to have been infected for five years - and a quarter of people living with HIV are undiagnosed. 
"The framework rightly focuses on prevention for the most at-risk groups - gay and bisexual men and African communities - but it fails to mention at all prevention for non-African heterosexuals, which make up 25% of UK acquired infections diagnosed every year.

for the 25% of people diagnosed with HIV every year who are non-African heterosexuals. 
"The document addresses STI-related stigma and embarrassment but focuses more on social awkwardness rather than the very real prejudice and discrimination faced by many people living with HIV. It also only touches lightly on important issues of sex education for young gay men and the links between recreational drug use or mental health and HIV transmission in the gay community. 
"Whilst the Framework for Sexual Health Improvement in England will be an invaluable resource for commissioners it does not replace the need for a comprehensive strategy on HIV. 
"Treating HIV as merely a STI is not the whole picture. HIV is not simply a health issue and the responsibly of the Department of Health. The Department for Education, the Department for Work and Pensions, the Ministry of Justice, Home Office and Department for Communities and Local Government to name a few, all need to consider how their policies affected people living with HIV.
"We need a national strategy which recognises HIV as a life-long condition - and effectively addresses issues such as social care, poverty and unemployment, inequality, discrimination and the needs of an aging population - as well as addressing the HIV risk for people who inject drugs."

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