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UK moves closer to eliminating HIV transmissions and deaths

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Treatment rates for those diagnosed with HIV have hit an all-time high of 97%

There has been a significant improvement in the elimination and treatment of HIV in the UK, with the mortality rate of those diagnosed now ‘comparable to the rest of the population’, according to a new Public Health England (PHE) report.

The number of HIV diagnoses in gay and bisexual men has fallen for the first time since the HIV epidemic began in the UK. Diagnoses of HIV amongst gay and bisexual men fell by 21% to 2810 in 2016, with the national average dropping by a similar, but smaller, 18% to 5164.

The report, Towards elimination of HIV transmission, AIDS and HIV-related deaths in the UK, also found that, in London, all the UNAIDS 90:90:90 targets had been met. This means that 90% of people living with HIV had been diagnosed, 97% of people who were diagnosed had received treatment and 97% of those in treatment had been virally suppressed.

‘This year, there are 3 firsts in the 30-year history of the UK HIV epidemic. In London, all the global UNAIDS 90:90:90 targets have been met,’ said Dr Valerie Delpech, Head of HIV Surveillance at PHE.

The report revealed that, for the first time ever, the overall death rate of those ‘promptly’ diagnosed with HIV (aged 15 to 59) was ‘comparable’ to that of the rest of the population of the same age group, meaning that HIV may no longer be the ‘death sentence’ it once was.

Dr Delpech, said: ‘We celebrate these extraordinary achievements which are the result of a comprehensive response involving many key players and organisations.

‘By continuing to invest in effective preventative measures including condom use, expanded HIV testing, prompt treatment and the use of PrEP, the elimination of HIV transmission, AIDS and HIV-related deaths could become a reality in the UK.’

The number of people undiagnosed with HIV has fallen from 13,300 in 2015 to 10,400 in 2016, with most of this decline coming from gay and bisexual men in London, and heterosexual women from black African decent.

Furthermore, the time taken from diagnosis to antiretroviral therapy (ART) treatment has dropped considerably. In 2016, 76% of newly diagnosed people started ART within 90 days, up from 33% in 2007.

Professor Chloe Orkin, of the British HIV Association, said: ‘The report shows just what we can achieve; a normal life expectancy and the ability to prevent onward transmission. But these possibilities make it more important than ever that we normalise HIV testing and recommend it to our patients.’

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