As London celebrates Pride 2019, the organisers of the latest Do It London campaign say the capital can achieve zero new HIV infections if Londoners keep making safer choices.
Published: Monday, 1st July 2019
The campaign, part of the London HIV Prevention Programme, is particularly significant for its pan-London approach to tackling HIV, with collaboration and joint funding from London boroughs, including Hounslow.
The most recent data from Public Health England (December 2018) shows an overall 37 per cent reduction in new HIV diagnoses in the capital since the boroughs began Do It London in 2015. In men who have sex with men (the group most affected by HIV in London), that figure reduced by 40 per cent in the same period.
Do It London’s campaign, which will run over summer and autumn, will promote to Londoners the many ways there are to prevent HIV, including through the ‘combination prevention’ approach based on robust scientific evidence:
- Increased and more frequent testing for HIV
- HIV treatment leading to an undetectable viral load, U=U (Undetectable = Untransmittable, meaning people on effective treatment cannot pass on the virus)
- Access to, and uptake of, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) (a pill that protects against HIV infection)
- Condom use.
Councillor Katherine Dunne, Cabinet Member for Communities and Workforce, Hounslow Council, said: “HIV is no longer the death sentence it once was, but it remains a dangerous disease if left undiagnosed.
“Early diagnosis is crucial both to stop the spread of the disease and to begin treatment as early as possible.
“To help overcome the common misconceptions and stigmas associated with HIV, this campaign seeks to normalise HIV testing as a common and acceptable behaviour.
“To support this national campaign, help us continue to break down the stigma that can surround HIV.”
“Remember, HIV tests are now widely available, and free.
Cllr Ray Puddifoot, London Councils’ Executive Member for Health & Care, said: “London is now not just a national but a global leader in HIV prevention.
“Through collaborating and jointly funding the Do It London public health programme, the boroughs’ commitment to tackling HIV has made a major contribution to the capital’s record of success. This approach ensures strong and consistent messages are communicated to Londoners about HIV prevention.
“Today we’re in the exciting position where London can achieve zero new HIV infections by 2030 if current trends continue. To maintain positive progress, it’s crucial that Londoners keep making safer choices – and that’s why our latest Do It London campaign is so important.”
Paul Steinberg, lead commissioner of the London HIV Prevention Programme, said: “The reduction in HIV diagnoses in recent years is a very promising development, not least because it means Londoners themselves are making effective choices to stop the transmission of HIV.
“But this is no time for complacency. That’s why London boroughs continue to work together to encourage everyone to prevent HIV, in order to achieve our ambitious target of zero new infections by 2030.
“The London HIV Prevention Programme is proud to have played its part in the continued downturn in HIV incidence, alongside London’s world-class sexual health services, our clinical colleagues, the HIV voluntary sector, and the communities most affected by HIV. London is now a Fast Track City, part of an ambitious global effort to end the HIV epidemic by 2030, and we will continue to lead the way in efforts to prevent HIV and combat the harmful stigma needlessly associated with the virus.”
Despite the overall reduction in HIV, there are still around 36,000 Londoners living with HIV and the capital continues to have a much higher new diagnosis rate than the rest of England (21.7 per 100,000 versus 8.7).
Furthermore, 37 per cent of HIV diagnoses in Hounslow since 2015 were categorised as ‘late’. Late diagnosis causes delays in treatment and harm to health, as well as increasing the risk of onward HIV transmission. Londoners who are diagnosed late are more likely to be heterosexual, including a significant number from black African communities – another key target audience for the Do It London campaign.