HIV infections fall by 73% in gay & bisexual men in England
The latest report from Public Health England shows a steep decline in new HIV infections amongst gay and bisexual men.
The report shows declining infections across all populations, with an especially steep and rapid decline amongst gay and bisexual men. Heterosexual men and women who acquired HIV declined 54% and 22% respectively in comparison to 2014 figures, whilst amongst gay and bisexual men rates fell 73%.
The dramatic fall in new HIV infections has been attributed to increased testing (up 6% on the previous year) as well as the update of PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) and U=U (undetectable equals untransmittable).
England continues to do well on its UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets with:
- 93% of all people with HIV diagnosed
- 97% of all diagnosed people on treatment
- 97% of those on treatment having an undetectable viral load
PrEP is currently available free of charge in Scotland but people willing to access it in England have to enroll in a clinical trial called 'IMPACT'. The trial has limited places and often long wait times, so far there have been 15 confirmed cases of people becoming HIV positive whilst waiting for a place on the trial.
In light of these figures, and the impact PrEP has had on new infection rates, campaigners are calling for NHS England to fully commission PrEP and make it available to all who need it.
Phil Samba, of PrEP advocacy group Prepster, said:
"The figures show the impact that PrEP, combined with increases in HIV testing and rapid access to HIV treatments can have.
"We truly are living in a new era of HIV prevention.
"Yet, PrEP is still not freely available on the NHS in England and unnecessary HIV infections are happening because of foot-dragging by politicians.
"Today, we make a clear call to Matt Hancock and his colleagues, 'Get a grip and fund a full PrEP service now.'"
The report isn't all good news, however.
The rates of late diagnosis, when someone is diagnosed with a CD4 count of less than 350, remains stubborn at 43% and particularly in heterosexual men and the over 50's with black african heterosexual men the most likely to be diagnosed late at 65%.
Those diagnosed late have a ten-fold increase of in the first year of their diagnosis, where as those diagnosed early and put on treatment immediately can expect a life expectation equal to that of the general population.