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New HIV diagnoses in gay and bisexual men at their lowest in 20 years

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There has been a steep fall in the number of HIV There has been a steep fall in the number of HIV transmissions

For the first time, the number of new HIV diagnoses in gay and bisexual men outnumber new diagnoses in heterosexual adults by only 100 cases, a new report by Public Health England has found.

The report shows there were 1700 new HIV diagnoses in GBM in 2019 compared to 1,500 in 2000. Overall, the number of people with a new HIV diagnoses fell by 10% (from 4580 in 2018 to 4139 in 2019). There was also a 34% decline from a peak of 6312 new diagnoses in 2014. There were 1700 new HIV diagnoses in gay and bisexual men (GBM) in 2019 compared to around 1600 cases in heterosexual adults. This is the lowest number of new HIV diagnoses in GBM since the year 2000 (1500) and since 1998 in heterosexual adults (1600).

Read more: Rates of HIV transmission continue to fall

‘In the UK, we have made great progress towards eliminating HIV transmission by 2030. Frequent HIV testing, the offer of PrEP among those most at risk of HIV, together with prompt treatment among those diagnosed, remain key to ending HIV transmission by 2030,’ said Dr Valerie Delpech, Head of HIV Surveillance at PHE.

The decline in HIV transmission in GBM can be directly linked to the increase in combination prevention, including:

  • the use of condoms
  • pre-exposure prophylaxis
  • frequent HIV testing in a wide range of settings
  • starting antiretroviral therapy as soon as possible after diagnosis

Read more: Human immunodeficiency virus: A review into treatment

Treatment is now so effective that 97% of people receiving ART have undetectable levels of virus, which means it is impossible to pass the virus on, even if having sex without condoms.

Almost 300,000 people declined to have an HIV test when they attended a specialist sexual health service.

Black African heterosexual women attendees were more likely to decline a test than Black African heterosexual men (20% versus 9% declined testing) but less likely than heterosexual women and men overall (25% versus 13%). More focused conversations on HIV, testing, prevention and treatment in schools and clinical settings can help to combat high rates of declined tests.

‘Further progress can only be achieved if we also address the inequalities in reducing HIV transmission that exist around sexuality, ethnicity and geography,’ added Dr Delpech.

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