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New data shows UK could very soon ‘eliminate HIV as a public health threat’

New data shows UK could very soon ‘eliminate HIV as a public health threat’

Red ribbons raise awareness of World AIDS Day

New data has shown the UK has the right tools in place to eliminate HIV as a public health threat.

A report published today shows the UK is among the first to not only meet HIV targets, but to exceed them.

UNAIDS called on countries to aim for 90-90-90. This means having 90% or over of those with HIV diagnosed and aware of their condition. It also means 90% of those diagnosed on the necessary antiretroviral treatment and 90% of those treated to have achieved viral suppression.

It was hoped the UK would achieve this by 2020, but it’s surpassed these goals.

Surpassing UN goals for HIV

A red ribbon hangs at the White House for World HIV/AIDS day.
HIV cases are down in NYC. | Photo: Wikimedia/Eric Draper

New estimates reveal 92% of people living with HIV in the UK have been diagnosed. Also 98% of those diagnosed were on treatment and 97% of those on treatment were virally suppressed.

Last year saw the first time the number of new diagnoses had decreased for gay and bi men.

And in fact, the number of new infections acquired of gay and bi men has now more than halved. Numbers show new diagnoses peaked around 2,700 in 2012 to 1,200 in 2017.

The success is pointed to condom use, increased HIV testing and the availability of PrEP.

The report shows, for the first time, diagnoses among heterosexuals has decreased. This is the second year new HIV diagnoses has decreased for gay and bi men.

London saw the biggest drop in new diagnoses. In the UK capital, new diagnoses amongst gay and bisexual men fell by 44% between 2015-2017.

Professor Noel Gill, Head of STIs & HIV at Public Health England, said: ‘There can be no doubt prevention efforts to end the HIV epidemic in the UK are working.

‘Our efforts must continue apace in order to eliminate HIV. With an estimated 8,000 people still unaware of their infection it is vital that people seek out an HIV test if they consider themselves at risk… Early diagnosis is key to stopping transmission.’

Data released before 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day

The 'Bang Bus' went all over London in the name of World AIDS day and to memorialise HIV victims held on Dec 1st
The ‘Bang Bus’ went all over London in the name of World AIDS day held on Dec 1st | Photo: Holly Buckle

The data was released before the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘Many of us will remember a time when an HIV positive result was effectively a death sentence.

‘Today’s report is a poignant and powerful reminder of how far we’ve come.

‘Now in the UK, almost everyone with HIV is not only diagnosed and in treatment but living long, healthy lives. We’re one of just a handful of countries to meet these ambitious UN targets.

‘This didn’t seem possible just a few decades ago. Thanks to the efforts of public health bodies, charities and the NHS to encourage early testing and pioneer high quality treatment, we are pushing ahead in the fight against HIV.’

More work to be done

Tributes paid to the ones we've lost on World AIDS Day | Facebook
Tributes paid to the ones we’ve lost on World AIDS Day | Facebook

But there is still work to be done, especially in eliminating stigma.

Deborah Gold, Chief Executive of National AIDS Trust, said she was ‘overjoyed’.

‘The recent data positions the UK as a global leader on HIV. There is a great deal to celebrate in the detail.

‘This includes reducing rates of infection being seen across all communities, and the very high proportion of people living with HIV who are non-infectious, which has immense benefits for the health of individuals and the wider public.

‘This is an extraordinary moment in the fight against HIV – in which everything seems possible. We know what works. We have the tools. With the right political will, investment and public support, we can eliminate HIV as a public health threat and make real progress towards the UN target to end HIV-related stigma.

‘The Government must explicitly commit to achieving zero new infections and zero stigma, and agree a plan as to how to get there.’

See also

New HIV cases reach ‘alarming levels’ in Eastern Europe

These hot Philippine social media stars are urging people to test for HIV

Thailand’s gay icons take to Facebook to encourage HIV testing