'Let's do it': Sir Elton John urges government to end new HIV transmissions by 2030

Ahead of his Westminster appearance, Sir Elton John was praised by the prime minister for his contribution to the fight against HIV, Ian Woods reports

Sir Elton John has used an appearance in Parliament to urge MPs to do more to meet the government's target of ending new HIV transmissions in England by 2030.

The musician, who was attending a reception at Westminster on Wednesday evening, told ministers that England "can be the first country in the world to defeat this awful virus", adding: "Let's do it. Let's do it."

He said: "I want to be back here in 2030 with all of you here and saying 'we did it. Great Britain led the way in ending this disease'."

Writing on X, formerly known as Twitter, the House of Commons Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, said he was "privileged" to welcome Sir Elton and "acknowledge his exceptional contribution to the global fight against HIV and AIDS".

Sir Elton's comments come after officials said that "Opt-out" HIV testing in A&E departments is to be ramped up in a bid to find undiagnosed cases of the virus.

More than 4,000 people in England are thought to be living with the virus but are not aware.

After a successful pilot project, health officials are increasing testing of blood samples in areas where there is higher prevalence of HIV in a bid to spot people with the condition.

The pilot project saw 34 A&Es in hotspot areas test blood taken in routine A&E care for bloodborne viruses - including HIV and hepatitis B and C.

Since April 2022, some 4,000 people with one of these viruses has been identified through the scheme, after more than 1.4 million samples were tested.

As well as spotting new cases, the project has been found useful to spot people who have disengaged with HIV care.

'We can be the first country in the world to defeat this awful virus'

Now, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has announced more funding to expend the scheme, which is still operating as a research project in 46 more emergency departments across England.

Officials hope the £20 million National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) project will help the government achieve its 2030 goal.

Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins said: "As well as promoting prevention for all, the more people we can diagnose, the more chance we have of ending new transmissions of the virus and the stigma wrongly attached to it.

"This programme, which improves people’s health and wellbeing, saves lives and money."

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: "The tireless work of campaigners, survivors, scientists, medical staff and others has meant that, for the first time, we can say that the end of the HIV/Aids epidemic is on the horizon.

"We now have a world where HIV positive people can live freely and love freely, something so many people were once too scared even to dream.

"The incredible progress made so far, resulting in the expansion of the NHS opt-out blood-borne virus testing programme, should be widely celebrated."

Professor Kevin Fenton, the government's chief adviser on HIV, added: "The opt-out testing programme will boost our progress to identify the estimated 4,500 people who could be living with undiagnosed HIV and help us ensure we meet our 2030 ambition, with the possibility to save thousands of lives in the process."

Anne Aslett, chief executive of Sir Elton's charity, the Elton John Aids Foundation, added: "Results from the last 18 months demonstrate how incredibly important this approach is to ensure no one is left behind.

"Today's announcement to further expand opt-out testing to 46 additional emergency departments is another fantastic and very significant step towards meeting the goal of ending new HIV transmissions by 2030 and above all else will save lives."

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