Ruth Maguire MSP has welcomed the announcement of Scottish Government plans to eliminate HIV transmission in Scotland within the next decade.
The HIV transmission elimination proposal, announced today [Tuesday 1 December] to mark World Aids Day, will be developed alongside other measures to prevent transmission, including widening access to medication that prevents HIV infection, increasing testing capacity and measures to prevent people sharing needles.
The Scottish Government has also provided £377,000 to develop a national online service for sexually transmitted infections and bloodborne viruses, which will allow people to request a test online and home self-sampling, while providing clinicians with comprehensive, real-time data on HIV care and outcomes.
The SNP MSP for Cunninghame South said: “We have made remarkable progress in tackling HIV with people living with this virus now able to live long and healthy lives.
“There is still work to be done to reach the aim of eliminating HIV transmission in Scotland. Challenging the stigma that is attached to the virus is a key part of ensuring that we achieve this goal by 2030.”
Public health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said: “Thanks to our leading sexual and reproductive health services, access to HIV specialist treatment and care is excellent. We are also one of the first countries in the world to have an HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis service, offering free preventative medication to those deemed at highest risk of acquiring HIV.
“I believe we can go further and that the goal of eliminating HIV transmission is now in sight.”
Welcoming the commitment, HIV Scotland Chief Executive Nathan Sparling said: “Eliminating new HIV transmission and ending the pervasive stigma attached to the virus are two central goals of our work. It is great to see not only a commitment from the Scottish Government, but clear action that will help us deliver a plan to make elimination a reality.
“Scotland’s unique response to HIV – working strategically between government, clinicians, academics, the third sector and people living with HIV – makes this target achievable. Coupled with the public support for preventative spending on HIV and other long-term conditions, we can really harness Scotland’s potential to be one of the first countries in the world to achieve HIV transmission elimination.”
The proposals will be drawn up by the Scottish Health Protection Network, including clinical, public health, academic and third sector partners, and will form a key element of the Scottish Government’s next Sexual Health and Bloodborne Virus Framework. This framework sets out the Scottish Government’s vision and outcomes in relation to sexual health, HIV, hepatitis C and hepatitis B.
Last year there were 5,617 people diagnosed and living with HIV in Scotland, according to Health Protection Scotland data. Of those attending HIV specialist treatment and care, 98% were receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART). In 95%, the virus cannot be detected in their blood, meaning they have an undetectable viral load and cannot transmit HIV.
HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is a pill comprising two HIV antiretroviral drugs. It is prescribed to HIV negative people at risk of becoming infected sexually as part of a comprehensive approach to HIV prevention.