Act now to ‘reverse’ HIV in Blackpool, MPs and Council demand of Health Secretary.
Blackpool’s two MPs and the council’s leadership have written a joint letter to the Health Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer; demanding the funds necessary to ‘reverse’ the rates of HIV in the town and describing investment in opt-out HIV testing being trialled in the Blackpool Teaching Hospital as a ‘win-win’.
The letter’s authors – Scott Benton MP (Blackpool South); Paul Maynard MP (Blackpool North & Cleveleys); Councillor Lynn Williams (Leader, Blackpool Council); Councillor Jo Farrell (Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health) – write:
“Blackpool Teaching Hospital has initiated a programme of opt-out HIV testing in its Accident and Emergency Department … the key recommendation of the HIV Commission.
This approach has produced considerable results locally and we are sure the Health Secretary will join us in commending the Blackpool Teaching Hospital for this important initiative.
Opt-out HIV testing is clearly acceptable to the community and the approach is delivering great results.”
Public Health England says the town’s HIV prevalence rate is ‘getting worse’. Figures show the HIV prevalence rate is 4.92 per 1,000 people aged 15-59 – known as ‘high prevalence’, up from 3.59 in 2011. Any higher risks the town being an ‘extremely high prevalence area’ list, 5 per 1,000 or higher.
Blackpool South MP Scott Benton says:
“As local leaders we wish to reverse this direction of travel and keep the town out of the extremely high prevalence category. This local initiative must be matched by national funds and the demand for it to expand into other NHS areas just be met if we are to see the decline in HIV cases we need.”
This is the latest initiative to reverse the local trend and put Blackpool – and the country – on track to end new cases of HIV by 2030.
Blackpool’s council leader Lynn Williams says:
“We share the government’s aspiration to end new cases of HIV by 2030 and hope we can be the first country to achieve this UNAIDS’ target – to do this requires investment in Blackpool now.”
The organisational founders of the HIV Commission – Terrence Higgins Trust, National AIDS Trust and the Elton John AIDS Foundation – welcomed the letter and the demand for more funds for opt-out HIV testing across the NHS, an HIV Action Plan ‘worthy of its name’ and greater focus to end new cases before the end of the decade.
Ian Green, Chief Executive of Terrence Higgins Trust, says:
"The HIV Commission recommended 'test, test, test' and Blackpool Teaching Hospital have taken up this mantle with great effect. The government should learn from what works in our towns and cities, make the funding available to make opt-out HIV testing happen in all areas of high and extremely high prevalence and do it now. I applaud the local MPs and council leadership for making this call now and taking action to end new HIV cases in Blackpool before the 2030 deadline."
Deborah Gold, Chief Executive of the National AIDS Trust, says:
"It is great that the town's leadership is coming together and working cross party to ensure the ambition to end new cases of HIV by 2030 is not remote Whitehall policy but real action on the ground. The local success of opt-out HIV testing proves the public find it acceptable and HIV testing in A&Es works. To expand the scheme we need an injection of cash, as the government writes its HIV Action there is no better time for new funding."
Anne Aslett, Chief Executive of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, says:
"The results in Blackpool mirror the results across the country – where you have opt-out HIV testing in Emergency Departments the public support it and the programme diagnoses many before they present to the NHS with more complex needs. It changes lives and saves time and money. The government has said they support the recommendations of the HIV Commission, they need to help areas like Blackpool implement it with a supportive framework and new funding."