Angela Burns AM welcomes campaign to help identify late HIV diagnoses.
During national HIV testing Week (November 16 to 24), Angela Burns AM – the Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Health – has welcomed the initiative to encourage more people in Wales to take the test, but has said that there is no room for complacency.
National HIV Testing Week (NHTW) is an annual event – held every November in the run-up to World Aids Day (December 1) – to promote regular testing among key populations. It aims to reduce the numbers of undiagnosed people and those diagnosed late.
She said: “In the UK, the combination prevention approach to HIV has led to a substantial decline in HIV diagnoses for the first time. However, the work must not stop here. There was a small increase in late diagnoses between 2015 (39%) and 2017 (43%), which means testing is still as important as ever.”
Recent figures from NHS Wales show an eight-per cent rise (from 26 new diagnoses to 28) between Q3 2017-Q4 2017 and Q3 2018-Q4 2018 out of, respectively, some 19,322 screenings to 19,633 ( a two-per cent increase) for the same periods.
The Shadow Health Minister added: “However, within those figures is a worrying rise among young people, those aged 15 to 24 from one new diagnosis for the same periods to five – a 400-percent increase – while screenings within that age group have dropped by three percent.”
She added that Welsh Conservatives have supported the Welsh Government’s licensing of PrEP – pre-exposure prophylaxis, a drug taken by HIV-negative people before and after sex that reduces the risk of getting HIV – to be routinely available on the NHS.
PrEP is intended to reduce the risk and transmission of HIV by more than 90%. However, in July, the Health Minister announced that some 24 per cent of people attending sexual health clinics HAD declined PrEP when offered it.
Ms Burns concluded, saying: “This is an issue that crosses party political boundaries, and campaigns such as National HIV Testing Week can only be welcomed for all in Wales, the UK, and outside these borders.”