Efforts to prevent the spread of HIV in the UK are working, a new report by PHE has suggested.
The report found that in 2017, 92% of people living with HIV in the UK have been diagnosed, 98% of those diagnosed were on treatment, and 97% of those on treatment were virally suppressed.
An estimated total of 102,000 people were living with HIV in the UK in 2017, with 8% unaware of their infection. As a result of treatment, 87% of all people living with HIV have an undetectable viral load and are unable to pass on their infection to other people.
New HIV diagnoses continued to decline in the UK, falling 17% from 5,280 in 2016 to 4,363 in 2017. The reduction in new diagnoses continues the downward trend in HIV transmission among gay and bisexual men that started in 2012.
This is of course an impressive achievement and very welcome news. It reflects a cultural shift both in the general population and within healthcare which has made sexual health promotion, HIV prevention and access to regular testing and early treatment for HIV and other infections easier and part of people's routine health care,’ said Simon Browes, Vice-Chair of the Professional Nursing Committee at the Royal College of Nursing.
‘We are seeing the corresponding benefits of early diagnosis and initiation of effective treatment both to people's long-term health and in reducing HIV transmission. It is clear that improving access to PrEP has been a significant game-changer for some communities, but we have a long way to go with ensuring this is accessible to all who would benefit.’
However, PHE has said that more needs to be done to eliminate HIV in the UK. In 2017, 43% (1,879) of new HIV diagnoses were made at a late stage of HIV infection, and while numbers of late HIV diagnoses have declined, there continue to be missed opportunities for early diagnosis that can help people with HIV live longer.
‘Maintaining this momentum is now more important than ever. Primary Care has a long established role in contraception and sexual health, but is now playing an increasing important role in promoting and offering access to HIV testing to our populations,’ added Mr Browes.‘At a time of significant cuts to public health budgets resulting in the reduction or loss of vital services, there must be a clear message to central Government and to commissioners of primary care and public health that we must not be complacent that this trend will continue without continued and concerted investment and support; both for the provision of specialist sexual health and HIV services and for the primary care and public health nursing workforce to fulfill its potential.’