Wales is one step closer to eradicating HIV

Wales HIV Action Plan outlines plans to fund a new initiative which aims to eradicate new cases of HIV by 2030

an HIV red ribbon is worn on a qhite shirt
HIV support services in Wales are being funded by the Welsh Government Credit : Pexels

Isolation, fear and anxiety are just a few of the words that come to mind when thinking about a deadly virus. In recent years, post-pandemic, the impact of viruses hasn’t been isolated to one particular group of people with support easily accessible and understood on a large scale. But, the same levels of support are often not extended to those with HIV. According to Welsh support services, though, this is about to change. 

The Welsh Government HIV Action Plan released this year, has outlined plans to fund the Fast Track City initiative for Cardiff, hoping to establish Wales as a Fast Track Nation. 

Fast Track Cities is a global movement that aids in the global AIDS strategy to end HIV by 2030 by achieving zero new HIV infections, zero preventable deaths and zero stigma.

Secretary of the Fast Track Cardiff steering group Lisa Power highlighted that the importance of Cardiff becoming a Fast Track City is largely due to the high percentage of late diagnoses in Wales compared to other parts of the UK. Late diagnosis rates for HIV in Wales were 62% in 2019 compared to the 42% average in the UK. 

Previously, Fast Track Cardiff and Vale were unfunded but the new HIV Action Plan has outlined plans to put funding in place to help establish Wales as a Fast Track Nation. Power said “We really want to make changes but involve everybody.” 

The support and funding from the Welsh Government is a welcome change and will hopefully grow the initiative to support individuals living with HIV in Wales. 

Fast Track Cardiff is looking at specific areas that might be lacking in support to improve the lives of individuals in Wales. Power says “The main people whose lives we have changed significantly are mostly the people who’ve found out they have HIV through our testing campaigns and got treated before they got ill or passed the virus on.”

The initiative involves collaboration between the Welsh Government, Public Health Wales, local health boards, a representative of Welsh local authorities, clinicians, voluntary sector groups and people living with HIV.

“I’ve been taking PrEP, but you can only take it if you test negative, there’s not enough information about what happens if you test positive.”  

What is a Fast Track City?

Watch this explainer video to find out.

Working as a Fast Track City will mean that Cardiff will be able to network with other cities and share expertise about how they have reached the 90/90/90 goals. 

The Welsh Government hopes that the funding will help Wales reach the 2030 eradication goal and support health boards to establish and sustain themselves as hubs for HIV support. 

Fast Track City status also provides individuals with confidence when receiving a life-changing diagnosis like HIV as it links cities across the world together with a common goal – eradication. 

As the pilot of Fast Track Cardiff and Vale continues to grow positively, with funding this initiative could go even further and bigger and over time Fast Track Cardiff & Vale could become Fast Track Wales. 

What is Wales already doing?  

In addition to becoming a Fast Track City, Wales also has some other programmes in place to aid the community and to help achieve the UNAIDS 2030 goal. 

These include projects such as the ‘ask me about PrEP’ pilot project funded by Public Health Wales which encourages volunteers to talk to 20 people about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to educate more of the public on the benefits of taking the drug. 

As well as this, the pilot of ‘testing week’ funded by the Welsh Government in partnership with NHS Wales and PHW debuted last month. It was part of the Fast Track Cardiff and Vale plans outlined in the new HIV action plan. The week promoted the benefits of testing for HIV across social media channels, NHS Wales says “By encouraging people to test, we can help stop HIV in its tracks.” 

How will funding Fast Track Cardiff help those living with HIV? 

Speaking with those who have used HIV services in Wales highlights the dedication the country has to the 2030 goals, “I found the service really easily and they offer other services like syphilis tests as well as HIV tests” said one service user. 

test tube with blood sample that has 'hiv test' written on it
Testing services in Wales are becoming easier to access Credit: Pexels

Another user said, “I’ve been taking PrEP, but you can only take it if you test negative, there’s not enough information about what happens if you test positive.” 

Fast-Track Cardiff is hoping to use the funding to support those with positive diagnoses to get the help they need and to fight the stigma around the virus. 

They are hoping to bring more focused support to the areas of Wales that are struggling the most with HIV rates and access to services. 

Becoming a fast-track city will mean Cardiff will have support from other cities in the network working towards the 2030 goals. The government funding will mean more focused support can take place and will encourage people to access local services. 

Power, highlighted that there are a lot of people in Wales who aren’t comfortable with going public about their diagnosis but that Fast Track Cardiff is committed to trying to reduce the stigma through the initiative. 

The Fast Track City plans are outlined in the HIV Action Plan for Wales which you can read here