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St Helens Borough joins global campaign to eliminate HIV by 2030

HIV can now be treated so effectively that people living with the illness can live a normal life and don't pass HIV to others. In light of this, a pledge to eliminate HIV by 2030 through wider testing, earlier diagnosis and zero stigma has been made by St Helens Borough Council's Cabinet today (Wednesday 10 July).

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Article date: 11 July 2024

St Helens Borough will join cities across the globe in signing the Fast-Track Cities (FTC) declaration, launched globally in 2014 to achieve zero new transmissions of HIV, zero HIV/AIDS related deaths, and zero HIV related stigma and discrimination, by 2030.

More than 400 cities in more than 90 countries across the world have become signatories so far.

Liverpool signed up to the FTC initiative in 2018 and the City Region has now proposed extending the commitments to each of its constituent areas. Cabinet's decision to sign the FTC declaration in St Helens Borough has been supported by Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotherham, and by Public Health and sexual health services locally.

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that damages the cells in the immune system and can weaken the body's ability to fight infections and disease.

AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) is the term used to describe a number of serious, life-threatening infections and illnesses that may be acquired when your immune system has been severely damaged by HIV.

There are now very effective drug treatments available which mean people with HIV who are diagnosed early and taking treatment can expect to live a long and healthy life.

Although it is not a cure, HIV treatment reduces the levels of virus in a person's blood to undetectable levels. This ensures they stay well and also means they cannot transmit HIV to their sexual partners.

People who don't have HIV but who may be at risk can now take a preventative medication called PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), which can stop them from getting HIV.

Although prevalence of HIV in St Helens is low (defined as less than 2 per 1000 population), data from 2022 shows that HIV testing coverage in St Helens was significantly lower than the England average.

And over half (55%) of people diagnosed with HIV between 2020 and 2022 in St Helens were diagnosed at a late stage of infection, suggesting more work needs to be done to raise awareness, to reduce HIV-associated stigma and to support people to come forward for testing.

Councillor Sue Murphy MBE, St Helens Borough Council's Cabinet Member for Public Health, said: "Becoming a signatory to the Fast-Track Cities initiative is an important step for St Helens alongside our neighbours in the Liverpool City Region. While our HIV numbers are low, our testing coverage is not as good as it could be and many are being diagnosed at late stages of infection, when the risks of serious ill-health are greater, but which could have been prevented if they were diagnosed earlier."

"The elimination of new HIV infections, preventable deaths and stigma by 2030 are ambitious goals shared by hundreds of major towns and cities across the world, but by working together to improve testing, earlier diagnosis and treatment, and by promoting understanding and acceptance, we can achieve it."

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Last modified on 11 July 2024