NHS England have announced funding for immediate antiretroviral treatment for HIV patients

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Adults and adolescents diagnosed with HIV will have access to a new immediate antiretroviral therapy treatment starting from next year, NHS England have announced.

It is one of three new treatments and services they have approved for funding for the financial year 2018/2019, which will benefit 3,000 patients in the first 12 months.

An immediate antiretroviral therapy for treatment of HIV-1 in adults and adolescents has been given Level 2 prioritisation, meaning that it costs less but offers significant clinical benefit for patients.

HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust welcomed the funding.

“We absolutely welcome the NHS decision to fund immediate antiretroviral therapy, which will not only enable those living with HIV to live longer, healthier lives, but will also reduce the risk of transmission,” said Ian Green, CEO, Terrence Higgins Trust.

Related: What is HIV? The facts and the myths explained

“This move will help us move toward the UNAIDS 2020 target of 90:90:90, and the eventual elimination of new HIV infections in the UK.”

The UNAIDS 90:90:90 target is working towards 90% of all people living with HIV knowing their HIV status, 90% of those individuals will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy and 90% of those will have viral suppression.

Viral suppression means that someone who has been diagnosed with HIV has an undetectable viral load and will not be able to pass it on to others.

Public Health England recently showed that these figures are currently at 88% diagnosed, 96% on treatment and 97% virally suppressed.

They also reported that the elimination of HIV transmission “could become a reality in the UK”.

It came as the latest figures in their annual HIV Testing report shows that positivity rates in new diagnoses fell by 29% from 1.7% in 2015 to 1.2% in 2016.

There were 1,292 new HIV diagnoses among gay and bisexual men in 2016.

The number of gay and bi men being tested for HIV has continued to rise, with 104,478 men being tested in 2016.

“This year, there are three firsts in the 30 year history of the UK HIV epidemic,” said Dr Valerie Delpech, Head of HIV Surveillance at Public Health England.

“In London, all the global UNAIDS 90:90:90 targets have been met with 90% of people living with HIV infection diagnosed, 97% of people diagnosed receiving treatment and 97% of those receiving treatment virally suppressed.

“HIV transmission among gay and bisexual men has fallen, and the death rate among people with HIV who are diagnosed promptly and on treatment is now comparable to the rest of the population.”

Related: NHS England launches three-year trial of HIV-prevention drugs for gay men

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