Today the Mail on Sunday published an article headlined ‘HIV treatment now costs NHS as much as breast cancer – Fears £606m annual bill for sexually transmitted disease is fuelled by flood of foreign health tourists‘.

The only views to ‘balance’ the diatribe published in the paper and online was a short rebuttal from BHIVA  (British HIV Association) and NAT (National AIDS Trust) as well as a short statement from NHS England on how costs for HIV treatment are actually reducing:

A spokesman for the BHIVA said: ‘In the UK, new diagnoses of HIV are now falling because of the success of testing and treatment.’

An NHS England spokesman said the cost of HIV treatment had fallen £28 million from £634 million in 2017/18 to £606 million in 2018/19.

A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘We’ve seen a decline of almost a third in new HIV diagnoses in the UK in recent years.

‘As with all other serious infectious diseases, we do not charge overseas visitors for treatment for HIV as, if left untreated, there is a significant risk to others in this country.’

Deborah Gold, chief executive of the NAT, said: ‘The concept of health tourism for HIV treatment is an outdated myth.

‘It is actually a problem that we have such long average delays, usually years, between migrants’ arrival in the UK and them accessing HIV testing and care.

‘Universal availability of HIV treatment is a cornerstone of the response in the UK. Any suggestion this is a poor use of NHS money, or that access to treatment should be limited for anyone, is outrageous. In fact, it is evidence of the NHS at its best: saving lives and preventing ill-health.’

UK-CAB (the UK Community Advisory Board) responded to the article via this tweet with the following statement:

“The UK is a world leader in reducing the numbers of new HIV diagnoses and one of only six countries to have already met the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets. This achievement would not have been possible without upscaling HIV testing and providing immediate antiretroviral treatment to all people living with HIV in the UK.

People with HIV on effective antiretroviral treatment cannot pass the virus on to their sexual partners or to their unborn child during birth and pregnancy. The investment in free HIV treatment for everyone with HIV is fundamental to meeting the Government’s commitment to end new transmissions by 2030.

Stigmatising information like that reported in today’s Mail on Sunday only serves to hinder the UK’s response to the HIV epidemic. Whilst we have made huge strides in reducing new diagnoses by an incredible 28% between 2015 and 2017, the numbers of people diagnosed late is still too high.

Late diagnosis not only increases the chances of premature death but also heightens the risk of HIV being unknowingly transmitted to sexual partners. We cannot tolerate attitudes which put people off testing and finding out their HIV status.

People living with HIV should not be pitted against other patient groups or conditions.

Access to treatment and care for all people living with HIV ensures that individuals can live well and in good health and also stops transmission of the virus to others. Any insinuation that denying HIV treatment to those without ‘settled’ status would be a benefit to the nation’s public health or NHS budgets is nonsense.”

Please circulate this as widely as possible.

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One Comment

  1. Well I like your statement: People living with HIV should not be pitted against other patient groups or conditions.
    When said, I greatly wished that it would apply to those whom are on the autistic spectrum with a learning disability (mental handicap) as being pitted is all they get with the NHS & organizations working well for others but certainly not for them.
    I give example in my own situation for caring for son’s on the autistic spectrum, whom I speak up for and am trying to obtain better health care for
    as well as having to fight for loss of financial benefits with the DWP and with little support from GP’s in the past but recently supported by Seap, whom advised contacting Health-watch /Wokingham which I pointed out that tried to get them on board,phoning and writing but they don’t come back (
    So I say the same People living with autism/learning difficulties -mental handicap should not be pitted against other patient groups or conditions,
    yet in reality they greatly are.
    When in my geographic area for 20 years my family were pushed around from one GP surgery to another every two weeks and when trying to get
    an appointment were told that they could not give us an appointment in our given time with them and so in reality with each surgery stating the same
    we would not actually receive a GP service..

    Also when referred to /attending a local hospital appliances department, as a need for appliances were to be met, then unable to obtain appointment,was told that there were other disabled people awaiting whom were with more important needs and to make sure we were discriminated they would say they would send appointment but never did and when trying to raise our concern about this with PALS department they decided to prohibit us from hospital saying it was because we got angry with staff when trying to get appointment
    they decided to totally ban us from their hospital.

    I am greatly aware of discrimination within the NHS, for families with persons on the autistic spectrum, which has a knock on affect to being unable to obtain financial assistance /welfare assistance (DWP) through lack of evidence of disability,as the medical professions do not understand or want to know or address their needs and in doing so autistic/learning disability
    persons and their families are greatly discriminated upon and some organizations/charities set up to help fight for them are doing the same.

    So give it to us too please should not be pitted against other patient groups or conditions.

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