Nicola Richards: ‘We can — and must — end HIV/AIDS as a public health threat by 2030’

This week, in the presence of a national treasure, the government announced the next game-changing campaign to help us eliminate new cases of HIV by 2030. 

Thanks to Sir Elton John’s AIDS Foundation, research began in 2021 proving that an ‘opt-out’ HIV testing approach in A&E was incredibly effective at diagnosing HIV. In 2021, the government invested £20 million in across four cities where HIV was most prevalent. And just in time for World AIDS Day today, the government announced a further £20 million to expand the service to other high prevalence areas, like mine in West Bromwich East. 

A few years ago, after I helped publicise an at home HIV test on my social media, I was struck that many in the communities I represent didn’t know HIV was still prevalent. Some even accused me of making it up once the Covid-19 pandemic was over. Others asked why I was doing a test, and who I had slept with. 

This concerned me for two reasons; firstly, there is a high prevalence of HIV in our community in Sandwell. Secondly, the stigma attached to HIV, for those who thought about it, was still a barrier to people testing and receiving the care and support they need. 

Opt-out testing has so far diagnosed over 900 people with HIV, and thousands more with Hepatitis. Every single one of those diagnoses are a life saved. They are saved from serious but avoidable health issues, and there’s a family spared the pain of losing a loved one. 

For many who have joined the likes of the Terrence Higgins Trust campaigning for the extended roll out of this scheme, it couldn’t have been announced at a better time or place. Not only did Sir Elton get the biggest, warmest show of appreciation from cross-party MPs and Peers, but he saw first-hand the legacy he had created. 

The Elton John AIDS Foundation, and Sir Elton himself have worked tirelessly. We heard him share why he set up the charity from his kitchen table, and how he felt he had let down so many who had already died of HIV, including many of his friends. 

But I hope one thing is clear to Sir Elton this week, he has let nobody down. He has done the world a service like no other in the field of HIV. He has given hope and dignity to millions, and he carries on doing so. 

We don’t just owe our progress to the likes of Sir Elton and his Foundation, but all the many health professionals I have met over the last year. They are passionate and they are excited. Every day they find new people whose lives they will go on to save — what a reason to get out of bed in the morning. 

And finally, we owe this to all those we have lost and all those living with HIV today. Many say the stigma is more harmful than HIV itself. Our message to them this week; we are on your side every step of the way, and we won’t stop fighting until we have reached our national goal of ending new cases of HIV by 2030. is the UK’s leading digital-only political website, providing comprehensive coverage of UK politics. Subscribe to our daily newsletter here.