New figures confirm HIV diagnoses are falling, but there is still “cause for concern”
New figures, published today by Public Health England (PHE), show an 18% decrease in HIV diagnoses in the UK in 2016.
While this is the largest decrease ever seen, the new statistics also show that 42% of people with HIV were still being diagnosed late; with heterosexual men and individuals aged over 50 the most likely to experience late diagnosis.
HIV diagnoses in gay and bisexual men have dropped by 21% and this decline is particularly focused in parts of London. This represents one of the most significant advances in HIV prevention since the beginning of the epidemic, but now we need to ensure we see the same declines in other groups.
Ian Green, Chief Executive of Terrence Higgins Trust, said:
“Today’s figures show we’ve started something – we’re beginning to see the reversal of the HIV epidemic in some communities in the UK.
“HIV diagnoses in gay and bisexual men, one of the groups most affected, are declining; showing what can be achieved when we utilise all the weapons in our arsenal against HIV transmission. This includes access to condoms, testing, PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) and diagnosing and treating people as early as possible so they can become uninfectious.
“But this is no time for complacency. We must keep this momentum going so we can see the same progress in other communities and bring the epidemic to an end.
“These new stats still show cause for concern, with late diagnoses worryingly high – putting people’s health at risk and meaning they can unwittingly pass on the virus.
“It is vital that heterosexual people and those from black African communities are getting tested for HIV and onto treatment as early as possible – HIV is not just an issue for men who have sex with men.”
Commenting on the need for PrEP, the game-changing HIV prevention tool, Ian Green added:
“Adding PrEP to existing HIV prevention strategies, alongside condoms, treatment and regular testing, will mean we have everything we need to put an end to the transmission of HIV in the UK. But it’s vital that investment in HIV services continues.
“The England PrEP trial, which will protect 10,000 people in England at risk of HIV, has still not yet started – we have now been promised the start of the trial by the end of October. This timeline cannot be pushed back further.
“In Scotland PrEP is available on the NHS, and in Wales as part of a large scale pilot.”
Ian Green added: “This is not the full picture. This data gives us important information about who is aware they have HIV, but it doesn’t tell us about those who still have no idea they are living with the virus. The real picture of HIV in the UK will remain unclear until this data is available in November.”
The full PHE report will be available in November 2017.
National HIV Testing Week 2017 takes place 18th – 25th November.