TWEEDDALE MP David Mundell says he felt honoured to welcome legendary musician Sir Elton John to the Palace of Westminster on Friday.

The international star was guest at a reception hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on HIV and AIDS, which is jointly chaired by Mr Mundell, who represents Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale.

It was organised to thank Sir Elton for his pivotal part in the fight against HIV and AIDS over many years, including supporting, through his foundation, the expansion of HIV prevention mother-to-child services in sub-Saharan Africa.

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In his opening remarks, Mr Mundell told Sir Elton: “Your impact is measured not in column inches but lives saved.”

The cross-party group at Westminster, founded in 1986, provides a critical forum for parliamentarians to come together and address the challenges posed by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

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In his address, Sir Elton said: “In the UK, new HIV diagnosis are down 46 per cent since their peak in 2015. We can be the first country in the world to defeat this awful virus. Let’s do it, let’s do it.”

Mr Mundell’s and the wider APPG efforts were praised by Sir Elton and other guests including UK health and social care secretary Victoria Atkins and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

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At the reception, the UK Government also announced expansion of opt-out testing where patients in a range of medical settings have the option of a routine test.

Mr Mundell explained: “New treatments mean that a person diagnosed with HIV can live a life that is essentially without HIV and where they cannot transmit it either. This, along with preventive drugs, has enabled significant progress has been made towards an aspiration of preventing further spread in the UK and hopefully further afield by 2030.

“However, if the UK is to reach this goal we are going to have to test, test and test again. Scotland alone has an estimated 500 people living undiagnosed with HIV. Opt-out testing, which sees additional blood taken during emergency department visits to test for HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, is a relatively cheap but effective way to reach people who do not routinely test, namely women.

“The UK Government’s announced expansion from the current 34 emergency departments to a further 46 in England will, I am confident, see us make further progress. I was also glad to see that the Scottish Government has followed the UK Government lead in announcing its first three pilot schemes on Friday.”