New HIV diagnoses fall by almost a third
Since 2015 the rate of new HIV diagnoses in the UK has fallen by almost a third (28%) from 6271 to 4484 in 2018, according to recent data published by Public Health England (PHE).
The 2018 figure is the lowest recorded rate of new HIV diagnosis in the UK since 2000. Lower rates were seen in gay, bisexual and heterosexual populations, but the biggest declines were among gay and bisexual men, with a 39% reduction in new HIV diagnoses from 2015–2018. In this time period, the steepest reductions in gay and bisexual men were from those: living in London (50% decrease), aged 15 to 24 years (47% decrease), white (46% decrease) and born in the UK (46% decrease).
The overall decline is due to a variety of factors, including higher rates of HIV testing, condom provision and increased scale-out and uptake of pre-exposure prophylaxis and anti-retroviral therapy drug treatments. As a sign of treatment effectiveness, the 2018 data show that 94% of people diagnosed with HIV in the UK accessing treatment were virally suppressed and incapable of passing on the infection.
However, challenges still remain in early HIV detection, with nearly half (43%) of people newly diagnosed with HIV in 2018 found to be at a late stage of infection, which increases the risk of death.
Dr Valerie Delpech, Head of HIV Surveillance at PHE, said: ‘It is thanks to the enormous testing and prevention efforts in the UK that we are seeing further declines in new HIV diagnoses, which have now reached their lowest in almost 20 years. People with HIV now benefit from effective treatments that stop the virus being passed on to sexual partners and the number of people diagnosed late is lower than ever before.
‘Getting tested for HIV has never been easier, with free tests available through GP surgeries, local hospitals and sexual health clinics, as well as through a self-sampling service or by using a self-testing kit. Early diagnosis means early effective treatment, which can prevent you passing on HIV.’