The department of health has launched the first national
strategy for sexual health and HIV following the results of the
second national survey of sexual attitudes and lifestyles,
writes Clare Jerrom.
Three new research papers show a rise in diagnoses of HIV and
other sexually transmitted diseases. According to the Terrence
Higgins Trust, there are approximately 33,200 people in the UK who
are HIV positive.
The strategy proposes targets to reduce the transmission of HIV
and gonorrhoea infections, and suggests a target to reduce the
number of undiagnosed HIV infections. Another aim is to reduce the
number of unplanned pregnancies.
The department of health will launch a national information
campaign next year to promote sexual health as part of the
The move follows the publication of a Terrence Higgins Trust
report, which highlighted the prejudice and discrimination that
people with HIV suffer.
‘Prejudice, discrimination and HIV – A Report’
said that many HIV positive people in Britain fear rejection from
friends and family and difficulties at work, to the extent where
they conceal their HIV diagnosis for fear of the consequences. HIV
positive asylum seekers are receiving ‘double discrimination’ as a
result of their illness and race.
The report made a series of recommendations to the department of
health including the funding of a national campaign to challenge
prejudice around HIV, and providing training and information about
HIV to all relevant staff.
The department of health also announced a new policy that
patients will no longer be automatically told when a health care
worker is found to be HIV positive.
The risk of HIV transmission will be assessed on a case by case
basis and the extent of patient notification exercise will depend
on the level of risk exposure. Until now, all patients have been
notified regardless of their level of risk.
HIV voluntary organisation George House Trust has welcomed the
announcement, saying the facts were clear that there is no recorded
transmission of HIV from a healthcare worker to a patient in the
Denise McDowell, director of the organisation, said: “It is a
welcome victory for people with HIV and especially for healthcare
workers who have lived under the shadow of intrusion and exposure
for too long. The policy has caused unnecessary distress and
furthered discrimination towards healthcare workers with HIV at a
time when support and care is needed.”