New HIV diagnoses in the UK continue to decline, says PHE

An older woman having blood taken for a HIV test

New HIV diagnoses in the UK have continued to decline over the past decade, with a substantial decrease between 2015–2017, according to the annual HIV report from Public Health England, published on 4 September 2018.

Diagnoses among gay and bisexual men decreased by over 30% between 2015–2017 across the UK. In London, new diagnoses in this group dropped by 41% to 811 cases in 2017.

The report notes that prior to this, diagnoses among gay and bisexual men had increased year on year from 2,820 in 2008 to 3,390 in 2015.

It explained that the observed fall in new HIV diagnoses among gay and bisexual men followed an earlier fall in underlying HIV infections that began in 2012, explained by large increases in HIV testing and improvements in the uptake of antiretroviral therapy (ART).

Overall, 98% ART coverage was achieved in 2017, and of those on ART in that year, 97% were virally suppressed and therefore unlikely to pass on HIV.

Diagnoses among black African and black Caribbean heterosexuals also decreased from 2,655 in 2008 to 594 in 2017, which the report said was likely due to changes in migration patterns, with fewer people entering the UK from high-prevalence countries.

For the first time, there was also a drop in the number of diagnoses reported among other heterosexuals, which fell to 849 in 2017 — previously diagnoses has remained stable at around 1,000 diagnoses per year.

Despite these reductions, the report said that significant challenges remained to control HIV in the UK. For example, the proportion of people diagnosed at a late stage of infection has remained around 40% for the past five years. Late diagnosis is associated with a ten-fold increased risk of short-term mortality and an increased risk of onward transmission.

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Citation
The Pharmaceutical Journal, September 2018;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2018.20205402