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Pharmacy leaders demand greater role in HIV/Aids prevention

Clinical Pharmacy leaders in London have called for the sector to be given a greater role in tackling HIV and AIDS on the back of a report that warned that there was an urgent need to improve HIV prevention services in the capital.

Pharmacy leaders in London have called for the sector to be given a greater role in tackling HIV and AIDS on the back of a report that warned that there was an urgent need to improve HIV prevention services in the capital. The report into the Pan London HIV Prevention Programme, which delivers HIV prevention work targeting gay men, African communities and people with HIV, said that, at present, the £2 million programme "lacked direction". The commissioning and management of the programme also had "significant failings" and required "urgent review", the report, which was published earlier this year, said.

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Raj Radia, vice-chair of City & Hackney LPC, said pharmacy could help tackle sexual health problems across the capital. "A few" pharmacies in his area were already providing a HIV-screening service, he said, and if PCTs commissioned services from more pharmacies the sector would be better able to target those at risk.

Leyla Hannbeck, head of information services at the NPA, agreed that pharmacists were well placed to raise public awareness of sexual health services and suggested testing services could be linked to others such as emergency hormonal contraception. Jignesh Patel, who piloted his own HIV-testing scheme at Ropharm pharmacy in Plaistow, agreed that community pharmacy could play an important role in tackling HIV and AIDS. "When we tried an HIV screening pilot scheme here we found that uptake was really good within pharmacies," said Mr Patel, of the service that won the C+D Award for Pharmacy Innovation of the Year 2011. "Even if a pharmacy is not involved in the actual HIV testing, they can encourage people to seek out a test with a leaflet on the counter." "What we really want to target is people who are at risk," he said. "But you might not want every pharmacy doing it, because its not one of these services, like MURs, that everyone will need." According to the Health Protection Agency (HPA), 28,000 people who have HIV are living in London – about two fifths of the UK total. A report published last February showed that of 17 HIV prevention projects commissioned in London only two "merited continued commissioning". A total of 11 were said to "merit no further investment", while four needed "fundamental restructuring". The latest report signalled out for criticism the spend targeted at the black African population, which it deemed "disproportionately low" and called for a prioritisation exercise to inform future commissioning decisions.  

What role do pharmacies have to play in HIV screening?

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