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Record levels of HIV testing among gay and bisexual men

The latest data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) shows highest ever uptake of HIV testing among some groups

2022 saw the highest ever uptake of HIV testing among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM), with diagnoses in this group continuing to fall, according to the latest HIV surveillance update for the UK. However, the data shows work must still be done to improve testing uptake, particularly among ethnic minorities and women.

There were 94,397 people living with diagnosed HIV infection and accessing care in England in 2022. In 2022, 98% of people with diagnosed HIV were on treatment with undetectable virus in their blood so that it cannot pass on to others.

‘In 2022 we saw further improvements in HIV testing and PrEP access, but progress has been uneven. The continued lower rates of HIV testing and PrEP among women and ethnic minority groups is concerning,’ said Dr Alison Brown, Interim Head of HIV Surveillance at UKHSA.

‘An HIV test is free and provides access to PrEP if needed. If you do test positive, treatment is so effective that you can expect to live a long healthy life and you won’t pass HIV on to partners.’

In England, there were 3,805 HIV diagnoses in 2022, a 22% rise from 3,118 in 2021. Of the 3,805 diagnoses, 64% (2,444) were diagnoses first made in England while 36% (1,361) were diagnoses among people previously diagnosed abroad. The number of HIV diagnoses first made in England rose by 6% from 2,313 in 2021 to 2,444 in 2022.

The rise in HIV diagnoses first made in England during 2022 is likely due to lower HIV testing rates during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lower testing rates are also likely to be a key reason for the increase in the number of late diagnoses, from 812 in 2021 to 865 in 2022. There has been a particular rise in late diagnoses among heterosexual women (191 in 2021 to 239 in 2022).

‘The latest data shows the positive results of our ongoing efforts to end new HIV transmissions within England by 2030. Through our HIV Prevention Programme (HPE) and the fantastic work of our local authority and NHS colleagues, we are making positive progress to boost testing uptake and improve timely access to effective treatment,’ said Professor Kevin Fenton, Chief Advisor on HIV to Government and Chair of the HIV Action Plan Implementation Steering Group.

‘However, we’re not yet seeing progress across the board and there remain some concerning trends around low testing and PrEP uptake in certain groups, particularly in women and those from ethnic minority backgrounds.’