New diagnoses of HIV in England have fallen among men who have sex with men, with the greatest decline seen in a handful of clinics in London, according to figures from Public Health England (PHE) and contained in a new report ‘Fall in new HIV diagnoses among MSM at selected London sexual health clinics’, (online, 23 June 2017).
It is the first time a drop in the number of diagnoses has been seen, and has been confirmed by a special analysis of the data after some sexual health clinics reported in the media that they had noticed a decrease.
PHE found a fall of 17% in new HIV diagnoses in gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men from 2,060 in 2014–2015 to 1,700 in 2015–2016.
In London, there was a drop of 32% (from 880 to 595) at five major London clinics, and an 8% fall (833 to 792) at 30 other London clinics.
PHE said national guidelines in place since 2012 recommending three-monthly testing for those at highest risk, had contributed to the fall in diagnoses.
They said that among the five clinics in London that saw the steepest decline, the number of HIV tests carried out between 2013 and 2016 had increased by 50%.
Further analysis showed that repeat tests had increased by 60%.
Treatment guidelines that indicate early treatment with ART to prevent onward transmission have also played a part, with men receiving treatment sooner after diagnosis on average at the clinics with the greatest fall in new diagnoses, the figures show.
The London clinics that had seen a particularly large fall in new diagnoses were taking part in the PROUD study of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
Dr Michael Brady, medical director of the Terrence Higgins Trust, called the sharp drop in England “remarkable”.
“This points towards what can be achieved when we utilise all the weapons in our arsenal against HIV transmission,” he said.