New official figures released by Public Health England (PHE) show a decline in the number of new diagnoses of HIV in gay and bisexual men in the UK.
PHE’s figures for 2016 show a 21% decline in the number of gay and bisexual men in the UK being newly diagnosed with HIV, falling from 3,570 new cases in 2015 to 2,810 new cases last year.
This decline was particularly sharp in London, falling 25% from 2015 to 2016.
Overall, PHE reported 5,164 new cases of HIV being diagnosed in 2016, an 18% fall from the previous year. This is the largest advance in the treatment of the HIV epidemic in the UK in 20 years, since treatment first became widely available.
Head of HIV surveillance at PHE, Dr Valerie Delpech, said: “Our success in reducing transmission is due to high levels of condom use among gay men, and a sharp rise in the number of men testing for HIV every year, with those at greatest risk testing more frequently.”
Frequent testing for HIV is vital, as the quicker a patient is diagnosed with HIV and is given treatment, the better outcomes the treatment will have, as well as greatly reducing the risk of transmitting the virus to others.
HIV testing is quick and easy, as well as being freely available at GP surgeries, local hospitals and sexual health clinics. It can also be done from home using a home-sampling test kit, which has boosted the number of men getting tested.
While testing is a huge factor in the decline of HIV diagnoses, the availability of PrEP (Pre-exposure Prophylaxis) has also greatly reduced the rate of transmission of the HIV virus.
PrEP is a HIV prevention drug that is available in the form of a pill, Truvada, acting to reduce the risk of HIV transmission.
PrEP has shown in previous trials such as PROUD to be clinically effective, and PHE is supporting NHS England in its PrEP Impact Trial beginning in October 2017, pushing for PrEP to be available to high risk people on the NHS.
With further investment in the treatment and diagnosis of HIV, PHE expects the sharp decline of new cases in London can be replicated in other parts of the country.
With testing and treatment options available, this is a great step forward towards eliminating HIV.
However, it is also important to note that practicing safe sex is encouraged, as condoms protect against HIV transmission, as well as other contractible STIs.
For more information about HIV testing, visit NHS choices.
For more information about self-testing, click here.
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