Report Criticizes Failure of British Health System to ‘Prioritize’ HIV, Warns of Impending ‘Public Health Crisis’
A report released recently by the Terrence Higgins Trust and the British HIV Association criticizes the United Kingdom government's failure to "prioritize" HIV and warns of an "impending public health crisis" because of both a lack of disease specialists and a rise in newly diagnosed cases, BMJ reports. More than 33,000 people in the United Kingdom have HIV, according to Public Health Laboratory Service estimates. New HIV cases have almost doubled from 2,638 in 1995 to 4,157 in 2001, leading each HIV specialist to serve, on average, 25 patients. The rise in HIV cases has also meant an increase in waiting times for people seeking treatment for other sexually transmitted diseases, the report states, noting that 26% of patients wait 8-14 days for an appointment, while 2% report waiting one to three months to see a doctor. The report says that the long waits and lack of specialized care can be attributed in part to the government's strategy on sexual health and HIV. Released last July, the strategy does not treat HIV as a separate sub-field. "Because HIV has not been made into a national service framework, it is not a priority for primary care trust managers. PCTs have neither the funds, the expertise, or any sense of impetus around HIV," Lisa Power, head of policy at the Terrence Higgins Trust, said. The government is expected to unveil its implementation plan for the sexual health and HIV strategy later this month. A spokesperson for the Department of Health said that the plan is "currently being finalized" and will be released "shortly" (Carlowe, BMJ, 6/15).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.