Recently published data indicate that new HIV diagnoses in the United Kingdom have fallen to their lowest since 2000, Public Health England has announced
. In 2018, the UK recorded 4484 new cases of HIV, representing a 28% decrease compared with the 6271 new diagnoses documented in 2015.
“I am delighted to see new figures released today which show we are well on our way to achieving our ambition of zero HIV transmissions in England by 2030, with HIV diagnoses at their lowest level since 2000,” Jo Churchill, Public Health Minister, said in a statement.
The largest decrease was observed in the population of men who have sex with men (MSM), where a 35% decline in cases was observed since 2015. More specifically, the largest decreases were noted among MSM who are:
- White (43% decrease from 2353 in 2015 to 1276 in 2018)
- Born in the UK (46% decrease from 1627 in 2015 to 873 in 2018)
- Aged 15 to 24 years (47% decrease from 505 in 2015 to 269 in 2018)
- Living in London (50% decrease from 1459 in 2015 to 736 in 2018)
The decline in new cases was not just observed among MSM. In fact, during the same period, new diagnoses fell by 24% among people HIV through heterosexual contact.
Public health officials attribute the decline in cases across all populations to effective HIV prevention methods including HIV testing, condom provision, and the scale-up of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Additionally, uptick of antiretroviral therapy has played a role in controlling the spread of HIV.
Statistics indicate that in 2018, 94% of people living with HIV in the UK who were actively accessing care were virally suppressed and therefore unable to transmit HIV.
Although falling rates of new diagnoses and high rates of viral suppression are positives, challenges remain in the fight against stopping HIV transmission. One particular challenge that the UK is facing is early detection of new diagnoses.
In 2018, 43% of individuals who were diagnosed with HIV were at a late stage of infection. Later detection increases the risk of death within 1 year by 10-fold.
According to the authors of the report
, additional efforts are necessary to consolidate the decline in new diagnoses and reduce late HIV diagnoses among particular sub-populations. Additionally, they aim to address the gap in prevention and treatment adherence in the sub-populations that include heterosexual individuals, people aged 50 years and older and those living in areas outside of London.
“This decline in diagnoses is a result of our unwavering commitment to prevention which has led to more people getting tested, and has allowed people with HIV to benefit from effective treatment, stopping the virus from spreading further,” Churchill said. “However, I am not complacent and remain dedicated to ensuring we reach our target of zero new HIV transmissions by 2030.”
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