Scotland's government recently launched a strategy, called the "HIV Proposed Action Plan in Scotland," to improve awareness, education and early detection of HIV/AIDS in the country, the Edinburgh Evening News reports. According to a government report, the majority of new HIV cases in Scotland occur among men who have sex with men. In addition, most heterosexual HIV transmission occurs among Scottish people traveling overseas, the report said. According to the Evening News, more than one-third of HIV-positive people in Scotland's Lothian region do not know they have the virus. Therefore, the country's plan emphasizes early diagnosis and increased testing and aims to address complacency about HIV/AIDS. According to the plan, "Early diagnosis allows the patient greater benefit from treatment and offers the chance to act to reduce further transmission" of HIV (Edinburgh Evening News, 2/23).
Scotland Region Reduces Funding for HIV Prevention Among Commercial Sex Workers
In related news, a recent decision by National Health Services-Lothian to reduce funding for services targeting commercial sex workers has raised concerns about implications for HIV prevention, London's Observer reports. According to NHS-Lothian, the agency cut funding by two-thirds because it no longer viewed commercial sex workers as a high-risk group for HIV transmission. The agency added that it acted in accordance with government guidelines, which suggest that HIV prevention funding should target MSM. As a result of the funding reduction, the Scottish Prostitutes Education Project, or Scot-Pep, which has provided services to commercial sex workers for more than 20 years, will withdraw services at the end of March.
Jinty Kerr of Scot-Pep said the organization acknowledges that "female sex workers are not the highest risk group" for HIV but added that Scot-Pep also provides services to prevent STIs and other diseases. Margo MacDonald, Scottish Parliament member who has supported services for commercial sex workers, said Scot-Pep might have been a victim of its own success because its services have contributed to a reduced HIV prevalence among commercial sex workers. Stephen Fraser, NHS-Lothian spokesperson, said that the "risk profile for contracting HIV has completely changed in the last 10 years. It used to be the case that the main source of infection was drug-abusing individuals using needles, and sex workers were obviously involved in that particular risk factor" (Kelbie, Observer, 2/22).
The action plan is available online (.pdf).
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