It’s been a very exciting few months, scientifically speaking, on the HIV front. First, we had news from the USA of a baby being ‘cured’ by early drug treatment, and then a French study showed that rapid treatment after infection with the virus could ‘functionally cure’ around 1 in 10 patients. With both stories, the key is early diagnosis.
On the policy front, however, news concerning sexually-transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies has been underwhelming. The Department of Health finally published its long-awaited Sexual Health Framework – the first initiative aimed at addressing sexual health since its Sexual Health Strategy which ran from 2002 to 2010. The problem is, this is a Framework, not a Strategy, and in short, it lacks teeth – a message ROAD helped to highlight to the media and stakeholders on behalf of the British HIV Association (BHIVA). In the worlds of the association’s Chair, Professor Jane Anderson, “Combating HIV involves almost every discipline and area of government policy, from science through to education, economics and social science. This means a strategy that gets all stakeholders around the table working to a coordinated plan.” It was a story picked up on in British Medical Journal and elsewhere, and it’s a story which will continue to run. We just hope that the list of ‘ambitions’ in the government’s Framework translate into joined up action to help boost early diagnosis of HIV. Only then will it be possible to make exciting scientific breakthroughs an on-the-ground reality.