England can turn the tide of HIV infections by 2020, according to sexual health charity THT.

On the eve of the first ever HIV Prevention England conference, when 300 HIV experts will meet in London, THT and the HIV Prevention England partnership have outlined a series of targets the nation can aim for to slash new infection rates, including –

  • A 125% increase in the number of HIV tests undertaken each year by people at greatest risk (an extra 250,000 tests a year)
  • A 50% reduction in the number of people with undiagnosed HIV (10,000 people)
  • 75% of all people with HIV to be on HIV treatment and uninfectious

If these targets are met within the next five years, the partnership estimates that by 2020 the number of new HIV infections in England would be slashed by one-third, from around 6,000 cases to 4,000 cases each year. This reduction would also save £560 million a year in HIV treatment costs.

Paul Ward, Acting Chief Executive at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: ‘England is now at a tipping point in its fight against HIV. Thanks to the NHS, we already lead the world in ensuring people with HIV are on treatment and uninfectious. Driving down undiagnosed infection is the final piece of the puzzle. With around two-thirds of new infections passed on by people who don’t know their status, the more people we test and treat, the fewer lives will be damaged by this entirely preventable virus.

‘All that is needed to achieve this vision is an extra £20 million a year investment in coordinated HIV testing programmes; a tiny fraction of the public health budget. There is no other health area where, for this size of investment, the state could bring a serious health condition under control.’

Just 20% have safe sex

The report comes on the same day that a University of Westminster research team found that 8 out of 10 young men in London do not use a condom during sex, and that new HIV infections in the 16-24 age bracket are rising by two a day across the UK. Some 57% of those surveyed said they had recently had unprotected sex with a stranger on more than one occasion.

24 year-old Daniel, who was interviewed, contracted HIV from his first boyfriend, with whom he had sex for the very first time when he was 16. ‘It was my own fault,’ he said. ‘I would never have imagined that my first sexual encounter could have such consequences. I was in love and even though it did cross my mind, I thought he did not look like somebody with HIV.’

More than half of the 160 people who were surveyed in Vauxhall, Soho and east London have never been tested for sexually transmitted diseases. Researcher Milan Juracka said: ‘So many do not care about the risks of unprotected sex, their partners status or even their own HIV status. There is a belief that if worst comes to worst, there is a simple fix, available for free on the NHS.’


2020 Vision: making England’s HIV prevention response the best in the world is available to download here. Image © Andrii Muzyka – Fotolia.com.