Health ministers from China visited Birmingham Heartlands Hospital last week in an internationally significant step in the battle against HIV and Aids.
In a major high-level engagement by Chinese health ministers and the NHS, the delegation, from Henan Province, met representatives from Heartlands Hospital and the Health Protection Agency (HPA) to sign a declaration of intent, signifying a commitment to working together.
Dr Li McCrae, clinical scientist at Heartlands Hospital and the West Midlands HPA, said: “A massive milestone has been reached between the UK and China. The declaration is a step towards a collaborative relationship which aims to improve HIV diagnosis management and treatment in both countries.”
Dr Stephen Taylor, lead consultant for the Birmingham Heartlands HIV Service said: “This has been a fantastic opportunity for us to share ideas and our experiences with the Chinese and vice versa. Ultimately our common purpose is to diagnose, treat and prevent HIV transmission whilst offering high quality patient care to those infected with HIV.
“There are important parallels in the two countries’ epidemics. In the UK we must continue to strive to diagnose the one third of people who are unknowingly infected with HIV. This is a public health imperative. The same will be true in China, although actual numbers of people infected will be tens of thousand times greater. Furthermore, we still have a huge problem with stigma here in the UK. We have come a long way in 25 years, but we still have a way to go.”
The event included presentations about the state of HIV in the UK and China and finished with discussions about shared goals and future collaboration. All parties emphasised their commitment to improving the treatment and care of people living with HIV, by raising awareness of HIV and AIDS amongst both medics and the public, combating stigma, and increasing HIV diagnoses through improved testing.