Wednesday November 30th 2016
In the week of World Aids Day, North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood has called on the Welsh Government to address the unacceptably high number of people being diagnosed with HIV late in Wales.
Calling for a Welsh Government Statement by the Health and Social Services Minister on HIV/AIDS, recognising that Thursday 1 December marks World Aids Day, Mr Isherwood also spoke of the urgent need to improve sexual health services in Wales.
“The Terrence Higgins Trust’s theme for World Aids Day this year is ‘HIV: It’s Not Over’. They say we’ve come a long way in tackling HIV in Wales. People living with HIV, diagnosed early and on treatment, now have a normal life expectancy ahead of them. Also, when an individual living with HIV is successfully on treatment and no HIV virus is detected in their blood, it’s impossible to transmit HIV. So, treatment equals prevention.
“But, one in six people living with HIV are unaware they have the virus, putting their own health at risk and unwittingly passing on the virus. In Wales, half of new people diagnosed with HIV last year were diagnosed late, the highest rate in the UK. With HIV affecting both gay people and heterosexuals, 68 per cent of all new diagnoses last year were in people aged 25 to 49. Although rates of HIV and sexually transmitted infections continue to rise across Wales, and fewer people were on HIV antiretroviral treatment in 2015 than the previous year, access to sexual health services across Wales continues to deteriorate, with no current statutory sexual health service provision of any kind in Powys, sexual health prevention and health promotion services decommissioned in three Welsh health boards—Betsi Cadwaladr, Cwm Taf and Hywel Dda—and support services only funded by the lottery, with funding coming to an end at the end of next March.
“The Terrence Higgins Trust is calling for an inquiry into the current level of access to sexual health services across Wales, and the impact in areas where there’s no, or low, access to services. So, we need to know from the Minister what measures he’s taking to tackle HIV in Wales, what action the Welsh Government is taking to address the unacceptably high number of people being diagnosed with HIV late in Wales, and whether the Minister will make a statement to mark World Aids Day, recognising both the importance of that event, but also the worrying figures and statistics highlighted by the Terrence Higgins Trust in Wales.”
In her response, the Leader of the House Jane Hutt, said: “If we look at rates of STIs and HIV in Wales, although the statement (made by the Minister for Social Services and Public Health on 23 November on sexual health in Wales) recognises they’ve been high in recent years, laboratory-confirmed data for the first six months of this year show falls in rates of sexually transmitted infections and HIV compared to the same period for 2014, which is encouraging.”
Mr Isherwood added: “Although there has been a slight decrease in the number of people newly diagnosed with HIV in Wales by comparison with 2014, this is against the backdrop of 2014 seeing the highest ever number of new diagnoses in a year in Wales and of 51% of people diagnosed with HIV in Wales during 2015 being diagnosed late, the highest rate in all of the UK.”