A new study has found that Australia is on track to become one of the first countries in the world to “virtually eliminate” HIV transmissions among gay, bisexual and other men and men who have sex with men (gbMSM).
The study, which reviewed figures from 2010 to 2019, found that new HIV infections had decreased dramatically along with an increase in people accessing treatment.
The findings, published in Lancet HIV, reported that across New South Wales and Victoria, two of the country’s most densely populated territories, the rate of new infections had dropped by as much as 66%. The study suggested that improved access to PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) and effective HIV treatment were the primary factors in the positive results.
The authors of the research paper, Dr Denton Callander and Professor Mark Stoové, collated the figures from over 100,000 samples gathered through 69 services providing HIV testing and treatment.
Although the global public health strategy, TasP (treatment as prevention), is recognised as being the most effective practice in reducing an individual’s risk of transmitting HIV to zero, the new study is the first to analyse the impact of this strategy.
Speaking to the University of New South Wales, where the research was conducted, Dr Callander said, “Our research shows that investing in HIV testing is crucial for HIV elimination”.
It is wild to imagine Australia may soon eliminate HIV! As shown in our @TheLancetHIV study, investing in HIV treatment achieved 'big picture' public health successes: for every 1% increase in successful treatment there was 6% decrease in HIV incidence. https://t.co/EoxusXDXlK pic.twitter.com/dFqG7hiKWZ
— Denton Callander (@dentoncallander) April 17, 2023
He explained, “To test the ‘big picture’ impacts of this important HIV prevention strategy, we examined 10 years of clinical data from over 100,000 gay and bisexual men in New South Wales and Victoria.
“We found that over time, as viral suppression increased, HIV incidence decreased. Indeed, every percentage point increase in successfully treated HIV saw a fivefold decrease in new infections, thus establishing treatment as prevention as a powerful public health strategy.”.
He also stressed the importance of making PrEP as widely available as possible. “While TasP is an important public health strategy, its true potential is unlocked when used in combination with the widespread availability of PrEP, and increased access to HIV testing and treatment, especially when delivered equitably.”
Echoing the need for access to PrEP, Professor Stoové said, “Australia is on track to become one of the first countries globally to virtually eliminate the transmission of HIV. The results of this research show that further investment in HIV treatment – especially alongside PrEP – is a crucial component of HIV elimination.”
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