London [UK], December 1 (ANI/Sputnik): The UK government announced on Wednesday a new HIV action plan backed by 23 million pounds (30.5 million dollars) to end infections and deaths in England by 2030, while the Ministry of Defence said changes are being introduced to make it easier for people with HIV to join the armed forces.
"We will end new HIV infections in England by the end of the decade," Health Minister Sajid Javid said in a statement released by his office on World AIDS Day.
The plan is aimed at preventing new infections by investing more funds in the National HIV Prevention Program over the next three years and increasing access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for people at risk of contracting the infection.
The government is also planning to scale up HIV testing in high-risk populations and ensure people rapidly receive treatment to stop them transmitting the infection further.
"We're taking action to make sure we're firmly on track to meet our target in the next 9 years - doubling down on existing efforts, and adopting new strategies to reach particularly at-risk groups," Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Vaccines and Public Health, Maggie Throup, was also quoted as saying.
In another announcement on World AIDS Day, the UK Ministry of Defence said that "from today," people who do not have HIV but who are taking PrEP medication to protect against potential infection will now be able to join and serve in the armed forces with no restrictions.
It added that "urgent work is also underway" to allow candidates with HIV, but on treatment and whose blood tests show no detectable virus, to join the military.
Under existing policy, which the Ministry of Defence said is expected to change from next spring, people with HIV are not able to join the armed forces, and anyone who is diagnosed with the virus while serving are no longer deemed fully fit and are unable to deploy on certain operations.
According to the latest report data from the Department of Health and Social Care, an estimated 96,200 people were living with HIV in 2019 in England, including an estimated 5,900 with an undiagnosed HIV infection, equivalent to 6% of the total. (ANI/Sputnik)