New HIV diagnoses in gay and bisexual men reach 20 year low

According to a new report by Public Health England, HIV transmission in gay and bisexual men has fallen by 80% from an estimated peak of 2,700 cases in 2011 to an estimated 540 in 2019.

The report shows there were 1,700 new HIV diagnoses in gay and bisexual men in 2019, the lowest level since 2000.

Prevention prevails

This data reflects the 2019 levels so is not impacted by the UK lockdown. The decline in transmission in can be directly linked to the increasing use of preventative measures which include:

  • The use of condoms
  • Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)
  • Frequent HIV testing
  • Antiretroviral therapy (ART)

“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.”

Dr Valerie Delpech, Head of HIV Surveillance at Public Health England

Many gay and bisexual men are now opting to take PrEP to reduce their risk of contracting HIV. PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis. PrEP is expected to be made available on the NHS this year, in the meantime you can read about purchasing PrEP here.

It’s worth noting that PrEP is specifically for reducing the risk of HIV transmission and correct and consistent condom use will also stop you getting or transmitting other sexually transmitted diseases.

Undetectable = Untransmittable

People who test positive for HIV are often treated with antiretroviral drugs (ART). These work by preventing the virus from replicating within the body.

The amount of HIV virus in the blood is measured to see how well treatment is working. Once it can no longer be measured it’s known as undetectable. Most people taking daily HIV treatment reach an undetectable viral load within 6 months of starting treatment.

After starting ART, the amount of the HIV virus in the blood is measured. Once it reaches a level where it can no longer be measured, it is known as undetectable. This is normally achieved within 6 months of starting treatment.

When a person has undetectable levels of the virus it means it is impossible to pass the virus on sexually, even if having sex without condoms. Undetectable = untransmittable (U=U).

From the Terrence Higgins Trust‘s ‘Can’t Pass It On‘ campaign

Get tested 

Getting tested is essential to protect yourself and ensure you can’t endanger others. People diagnosed late in 2019 had an eight-fold risk of death compared to those diagnosed promptly.

Anybody can get tested through free tests available from sexual health clinics, GP surgeries, as well as through a self-sampling service or by using a self-testing kit.

The HIV test works by detecting antibodies to HIV in blood or saliva. The most effective test is the blood test, which can be done by a doctor or at home.

Check if you are eligible for a free home testing kit here. Remember, everyone in the UK is entitled to free HIV testing at a sexual health clinic.

End the stigma

The stigma surrounding HIV can prevent people from talking openly, getting tested and performing safe sex practices.

You can help to end the stigma by learning more about HIV, the treatment and prevention. Another way to help is by discouraging your friends and family from using harmful phrases such as referring to people who are HIV negative as “clean”.

Find out more:

If you want to learn more about this topic you can check out the following resources:

Facts about HIV and AIDS: Avert

Tackling HIV Stigma: National Aids Trust

Information on PrEP: I Want PrEP Now

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