In some respects, the UK has met and surpassed many of its targets pertaining to the diagnosis and treatment of HIV. To this end, it was estimated that up to 92% of the 101,600 people living with HIV in the UK had been diagnosed by the end of 2017, whilst 98% were receiving full treatment for their condition.
However, it’s estimated that one in 12 people who live with HIV in the UK remain undiagnosed and oblivious to the fact that they’re living with the condition, whilst funding and awareness issues continue to create issues amongst dedicated healthcare services nationwide.
In this post, we’ll consider the challenges facing the HIV medical care system in the UK, whilst asking how these may impact on patients nationwide.
- The Need for Properly Funded HIV and Sexual Health Services
It’s well-known that austerity measures have precipitated a record slowdown in NHS funding growth since 2010, and whilst this trend may have reversed slightly in recent times it continues to affect patients access to high-quality care.
This certainly impacts those who have been diagnosed with HIV, with sexual health services having being described by various local government associations as being at a ‘tipping point’.
Even more worryingly, April of this year saw and end to the ring-fencing of local authority public health budgets in England.
This will heap more pressure on healthcare services, forcing administrators to focus primarily on improving efficiency and leveraging accessible technology to improve patient flow, enhance the quality of treatment and improve the way in which data is shared.
- Access to PrEP
In recent times, clinical research has yielded the so-called ‘PrEP pill’, which can supposedly take to protect you from HIV and prevent the onset of symptoms.
However, several questions remain about the ongoing NHS England PrEP trial, whilst are set to last for another two years at least whilst offering the most deserving subjects the opportunity to participate.
More specifically, NHS England has yet to provide information on what happens once the trial fills up, whilst there’s also a lack of detail about the next steps following the completion of the research project.
The ultimate aim is that this pill is clinically proven and made available nationwide, as this will reduce reliance on reactive medicine and ease the burden on the NHS. However, clarity needs to be provided by the government and local authorities if the trial is to achieve its objectives.
- Women and HIV
As part of the NHS England, PrEP trial, women who may be at risk of HIV are amongst the prime candidates to receive this preventative treatment.
After all, around one-third of people living with HIV in the UK are women, who are also more likely to go without having their symptoms diagnosed by a healthcare professional.
Until recently, women patients have remained largely invisible, but several projects and initiatives have combined to raise considerable awareness about the extent to which females are suffering with HIV in the UK.
There remains a considerable amount of work to do in this regard, however, with further recommendations and policies required to ensure that female HIV patients receive the quality of care that they deserve.