With the launch of Public Health England, the UK Department of Health has prioritized a new framework for sexual health that focuses on increased HIV testing for high-risk groups and “greater efforts to prevent STIs and HIV.” The launch of the new framework coincides with £1.2 million in cuts for the Pan-London HIV Prevention Programme; the cuts eliminate more than half of funding for city-wide HIV prevention efforts. The Health Protection Agency reported a record number of HIV diagnoses among gay and bisexual men in 2011.
Sir Nick Partridge, chief executive of Terrence Higgins Trust, UK’s largest sexual health and HIV nonprofit organization, welcomed the new focus on sexual health. However, Partridge stated that the framework should include increased HIV prevention for high-risk populations, expansion of community-based services, and updated sexual health education. In addition to lower funding for London programs, HIV funding also has been cut up to 10 percent for other UK cities.
Public Health Minister Anna Soubry urged the country to adopt an attitude that would allow people to make “informed decisions” without stigma, coercion, and abuse. Soubry noted that local councils will be responsible for commissioning sexual health services beginning April 1. Improving sexual health — lowering incidence of STIs, increasing access to contraception, and reducing unwanted pregnancies in communities — will require concerted efforts from the councils and Public Health England.