There has been a significant drop in HIV transmissions in the UK thanks in part to increases in HIV testing, according to a new report by Public Health England.
The drop in HIV transmission has been especially large among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men from an estimated 2,300 transmissions in 2014 to 800 in 2018 – a 73% fall. It is estimated that the number of gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men living undiagnosed with HIV has also halved since 2014.
Combination prevention, which includes the use of condoms, HIV testing in a wide range of settings, starting antiretroviral therapy (ART) as soon as possible if positive, and the availability of Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for those who are negative across the UK has been working. The goal in the UK is to fully eliminate HIV transmission by 2030 by sustaining these prevention efforts.
Dr Noel Gill, Head of STIs and HIV at Public Health England, said: “We are well on our way to reaching the goal of eliminating HIV transmission by 2030, with the rapid fall in HIV transmission continuing in 2018, and nearly all of those diagnosed receiving treatment that prevents onward transmission.
“Testing is a key part of the UK’s success, if you have HIV you can benefit from life-saving treatments that also prevent further transmission of the virus. Certain groups of people are at higher HIV risk and are advised to have regular tests, including men and women who have had unprotected sex with new or casual partners from countries where HIV is common, who should test every year, and men who have sex with men.”
The UK is one of the few countries in the world to have reached and exceeded all UNAIDS targets.
Dame Inga Beale, Chair of the HIV Commission, said, “The latest HIV statistics show real progress is being made in the fight against HIV, but also highlight the significant challenges that remain if we’re to achieve the ambitious goal of ending transmissions by 2030. To make good on that commitment we must look at what’s working well and how these successes can be further capitalised on, as well as thoroughly investigating how to tackle persistently high rates of late diagnosis and ensure the decline in new diagnoses is felt across all groups impacted by the epidemic. Progress that leaves some people behind is not progress at all.”
Dr Michael Brady, National Adviser for LGBT Health to the NHS said it is thanks to NHS care that people living with HIV now get “immediate access to highly effective treatments” and that the NHS is determined to carry on the significant progress towards eliminating HIV and achieving zero new transmissions by 2030.
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