For the first time since the beginning of the epidemic in the 80s, new HIV diagnoses are declining among gay and bisexual men in the UK.
London LGBTI community saw the steepest fall of 29%, (1,554 in 2015 to 1,096 in 2016), with the rest of the country at 21% (3,570 in 2015 to 2,810 in 2016).
Compared to the population at large, there was an 18% fall. There were 5,164 new HIV diagnoses in 2016, compared to 6,286 in 2015.
‘Most exciting development in the UK HIV epidemic in 20 years’
Experts call it the ‘most exciting development in the UK HIV epidemic in 20 years’.
Dr Valerie Delpech, head of HIV surveillance at Public Health England, said: ‘This is very good news.
‘It is the first time since the beginning of the HIV epidemic in the 1980s that we have observed a decline in new HIV diagnoses among gay and bisexual men and is clear evidence that HIV prevention efforts are working in the United Kingdom.
‘Our success in reducing transmission is due to high levels of condom use among gay men, and a sharp rise in the number of men testing for HIV each year, with those at greatest risk testing more frequently. Early diagnosis is also key to making sure that people benefit from HIV treatments so they can live long and healthy lives and are protected from passing on the virus to others.’
And while HIV charities are applauding this development, they would like to see what is happening in London be implemented across the UK.
Deborah Gold, chief executive of the National AIDS Trust, said: ‘NAT celebrates this proof that combination prevention can successfully reduce HIV, and applauds everyone involved in accomplishing this landmark result, achieved by adapting to the changing landscape of HIV and healthcare.
‘Thanks to awareness, testing, treatment, condoms and PrEP, a future where HIV (and fear of HIV) is less of a burden for gay men is in sight.
‘However, we are seriously concerned that progress for gay men is much slower outside of London, these reductions in diagnoses are not mirrored among heterosexual people, and black and minority ethnic people are more likely to be diagnosed with HIV late, with consequent poorer health outcomes.
‘This is an unacceptable inequality which needs urgent attention.
‘We cannot hope to build on this success if investment in preventing HIV continues to face significant cuts, which are already threatening recent progress.
‘Together we should celebrate what has been achieved, but this is no time for complacency. If anything, this shows that, now we know what is possible, we must redouble our efforts.’