Quite understandably, the vast majority of all health news coverage in 2020 (and, more recently, all news coverage in general) has been focused on Covid-19. But if you’d like to read some happier-than-a- world-pandemic news, I’ve compiled a short rundown of some UK health-related news stories from so far this year that have been overshadowed by the elephant (with a viral infection) in the room…
Quite understandably, the vast majority of all health news coverage in 2020 (and, more recently, all news coverage in general) has been focused on Covid-19. But if you’d like to read some happier-than-a- world-pandemic news, I’ve compiled a short rundown of some UK health-related news stories from so far this year that have been overshadowed by the elephant (with a viral infection) in the room.
The HIV drug PrEP is to become routinely available in England
PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a drug which – when taken daily – is highly effective at preventing HIV transmission, reducing the risk of contracting HIV from sex by around 99%. The Department of Health and Social Care is to give £16 million to local authorities to allow them to provide this drug to anyone who is at high risk of contracting the virus. This is a key step towards the government’s goal of ending HIV transmission by 2030. The drug will be available in England from April 2020. The same drug is already available to those in Scotland and Wales who are at risk of contracting HIV. 
The second person ever to be cured of HIV has revealed his identity
Adam Castillejo, previously known as the ‘London patient,’ was announced in March 2019 to have been cured of HIV. The only previous such case was in Berlin in 2007. Castillejo received bone marrow cells from a donor with a rare genetic mutation that resists HIV infection. This is not a treatment that will be used for patients who are being successfully treated with medication due to the level of risk associated with the treatment, but seems to be effective as a last resort for patients with HIV as well as life-threatening haematological malignancies, as was the case for Castillejo who had developed advanced Hodgekin lymphoma in 2012 after being diagnosed with HIV in 2003. Castillejo is regaining his strength, rebuilding his life, and looking forward to being an ambassador for hope for people everywhere who are living with HIV. 
Scotland are progressing legislation to tackle period poverty
The Period Products Bill which was first introduced in 2017 by Monica Lennon (Labour MSP for Central Scotland and Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport) looks likely to become law. The bill passed the first legislative stage in February 2019 with support from all parties in the Scottish Parliament. If it becomes law, Scotland will become the first country in the world to provide free tampons and sanitary pads. If and when the bill passes, it will be an excellent step towards tackling period poverty, which is a widespread problem throughout the UK – and it is thought likely that the rest of the UK will eventually follow suit. 
The UK is to abolish the ‘tampon tax’
The 5% VAT on sanitary products is to be scrapped from January 2021. The government says that, presently, EU law requires this 5% tax to exist, but once the UK officially leaves the EU next January, this will no longer be required, and the UK will get rid of it. But Labour MP Paula Sherriff disputes this, saying they have had permission to do this since 2016. Since 2015, the money raised from this VAT has been given to charities helping women so hopefully they will still receive the same support in the absence of the tax. 
‘Buffer zones’ outside abortion clinics are closer to becoming a reality
BPAS (British Pregnancy Advisory Service) has been campaigning for the introduction of buffer zones to prevent anti-abortion protests happening directly outside abortion clinics. Sarah Olney (Liberal Democrat MP for Richmond Park) has taken action which could eventually lead to legislation introducing official buffer zones. A buffer zone in Ealing was challenged in the Supreme Court by an anti-abortion activist, but the challenge was unsuccessful. BPAS hopes the Supreme Court decision will encourage more councils to introduce their own buffer zones. These would enable people to access necessary healthcare without feeling threatened or ashamed. 
I hope those positive stories made a nice change from the constant nightmarish onslaught of news at the moment and let’s hope there’s a lot more positive health news to come in the next few months.
 https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/mar/06/budget-2020-chancellor-plans-to-finally-end-tampon-tax  BPAS news ‘Choice in the News’ email update. BPAS can be found at www.bpas.org