The BPS welcomes the plan, however we hope that this includes specific provisions for mental health support for those with HIV, as has been promised by mental health minister Gillian Keegan.
Dr Sarah Rutter, chair of the BPS Division of Clinical Psychology’s Faculty for Sexual Health and HIV, said:
“We’re pleased to see the government address these concerns within the HIV Action Plan released today. However, it is clear that more funding and investment is needed.
“As ever with the release of a document such as this, the proof will be in the delivering, and we look forward to seeing the outcome of the OHID’s review of the current model sexual health service to ensure that formalised and improved pathways to mental health services are sufficiently prominent.
“It is well known that any problems relating to treatment adherence and retaining people in care are largely underpinned by psychosocial issues and mental health problems.
“It is therefore essential that HIV services are stocked accordingly – with psychological practitioners that can support the team to address these issues.
“We are pleased to see a commitment to increased access to pre-exposure prophylaxis drugs and targeted testing for high-risk communities. Good, early treatment can help to reduce the mental health issues relating to a HIV diagnosis.
“Psychologists within HIV services are ready to play our part in delivering the psychologically-informed care required to people living with HIV, however we need the government to be prepared to make the necessary investments to ensure that funding is available for more in-house psychologists that sit within HIV medical teams.”
There are an estimated 37.7 million people living with HIV worldwide, and 105,200 living in the UK.
World AIDS Day aims to raise awareness of HIV and challenge myths that still exist around the condition. This year’s theme is ‘End inequalities. End AIDS. End pandemics’.
While HIV can and does affect anyone, inequality and stigma means that certain groups of people are disproportionately more at risk of acquiring HIV and more likely to have worse health outcomes once diagnosed. Mental health issues are highly prevalent within the HIV population.
There are four actions that everyone can take to help address these issues:
- Educate yourself and others – many people’s ideas about HIV are incorrectly informed by the fear that existed at the start of the pandemic
- U=U: Understanding and sharing the message that a person living with HIV who is on medication and has an undetectable viral loud cannot transmit HIV to another person
- Language matters, so choose your words wisely and compassionately
- Take the opportunity to remember all of those who have lost their lives to AIDS-related illnesses, and show solidarity with those currently affected by the condition.
For more information on World AIDS Day, visit the organisation’s website.