Gay Times

New research shows that HIV diagnoses in the UK have fallen for the second year in a row.

Published today by Public Health England, the figures show that new HIV diagnoses decreased by 17% between 2016 and 2017 – from 5,280 down to 4,363 – and by 28% between 2015 and 2017.

When it comes to gay and bisexual men, there’s been a 31% decline in new HIV diagnoses between 2015 and 2017, and that figure rises to 41% when looking specifically at gay and bisexual men living in London.

Public Health England say the decrease in new diagnoses is due to a high uptake of testing, particularly repeat testing among higher risk men, and an increased uptake of anti-retroviral therapy – drugs that keep the level of HIV in the body low to help prevent it being passed on.

“Today’s drop in new HIV diagnoses among some communities in the UK clearly shows we have the tools to end the HIV epidemic in this country,” said Ian Green, Chief Executive at Terrence Higgins Trust.

“HIV treatment has undoubtedly played a role in this decline. Now, when someone is diagnosed, they are encouraged to immediately start treatment. This enables them to more quickly achieve an undetectable viral load, which means HIV can’t be passed on.”

Ian also highlighted the importance of PrEP – an anti-retroviral drug taken by HIV-negative people which, if used consistently, can help to reduce the risk of contracting the virus by more that 90% – and called on the NHS to make it available to all.

“In light of today’s data, we’re continuing to strongly call on NHS England to play its part in getting to zero HIV transmissions by making PrEP available to all who need it on the NHS in England.”

Despite the decrease in new diagnoses, the statistics also show that 42% of people with HIV were still being diagnosed late, which is after the immune system has already begun to be damaged. Ian called the number “worryingly high”.

Public Health England advises gay and bisexual men to have an HIV test at least once a year, or every three months if they’re having unprotected sex with new or casual partners.

You can find more information about HIV and sexual health from the Terrence Higgins Trust’s website.