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Duncan Selbie's Friday message - 23 November 2018

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Dear everyone

Great news on hepatitis C.  On Wednesday, we published our hepatitis C treatment monitoring in England report, which showed that in the last three years more than 24,500 people in England have accessed hepatitis C treatment and 95% of people who completed their treatment have been cured. This is a big step towards achieving the WHO target of eliminating hepatitis by 2030, and a testament to the close collaborative work between PHE and NHS England and colleagues across the NHS. Our work continues with the launch of a new national patient reengagement exercise this week, which aims to encourage the tens of thousands of people who have not so far accessed the new curative treatments to do so.

There is also very positive news on HIV, where in England transmission rates are decreasing and numbers of new diagnoses are falling.  However, our latest statistics show that around one in eight people living with HIV is undiagnosed and unaware they have the virus; and more than four in ten of those newly diagnosed in 2017 were diagnosed at a late stage of HIV infection. This is a major concern as late diagnosis is associated with a ten-fold increased risk of short-term mortality. We are coming to the end of National HIV Testing Week, a PHE-funded campaign highlighting the importance of regular testing and early diagnosis, especially among the most-affected population groups. Both HIV testing and treatment are free, and you can request a free self-sampling test online. With HIV prevention being as important now as it has ever been, the campaign aims to normalise testing as we move towards eliminating HIV.

On Tuesday, we published the findings of a survey exploring the public’s perception of obesity and who is responsible for addressing this. It showed that there is overwhelming public support for reducing sugar and calories in everyday foods, with nine in ten people saying that personal responsibility plays a part, but with similar numbers saying there is also a role for the food industry and for government. In other words, everyone is responsible and no one can leave it to others. There are various consultations under way on actions set out in chapter two of the childhood obesity plan on restricting advertising on all media channels before 9pm, calorie labelling for fast food restaurants and coffee shops, and on restricting the promotion of high fat salt and sugar products, i.e. buy one get one free. In 2019, PHE will be publishing its second report on sugar reduction, where we will identify those manufacturers and retailers who have made the progress asked of them, and those who have not.

And finally, yesterday, the Lancet Commission on Liver Disease in the UK published its fifth report on liver disease, 'Gathering momentum for the way ahead'. The report sums up progress, especially in the management of hepatitis C. It highlights the need for continued action to tackle alcohol and obesity as major causes of liver disease, and uses PHE data to emphasise that liver diseases are strongly associated with deprivation and there is wide geographical variation. PHE has also contributed to a greater understanding of the epidemiology of liver cancer, identification of liver disease in primary care, and the unwarranted variation in hospital outcomes from liver disease.

Best wishes


You can read previous Friday messages here.

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