The UK has struck a significant UN goal towards ending the HIV epidemic, succeeding in diagnosing and effectively treating more than 90% of people with the virus.
Public Health England reported that last year there were 102,000 people living with HIV in the UK, of whom 8% – 8,200 – were thought to be unaware of their infection.
UNAIDS has set a “90-90-90” target for each country, challenging health authorities to diagnose more than 90% of people with HIV, put 90% on treatment and ensure 90% of the virus is infected, which means the number of HIV in them antiretroviral drugs remain so low that they are not contagious to others.
In July, UNAids stated that Botswana, Cambodia, Denmark, Swaziland, Namibia and the Netherlands reached 90-90-90 goals, and seven more countries were on the way there.
Currently, the UK has joined its ranks, PHE reported, with a diagnosis of 92%, 98% of patients diagnosed for treatment and 97% for treatment that was suppressed by the virus.
The PHE report, published before World AIDS Day on Saturday, says that new diagnoses continued to fall from 5,280 in 2016 to 4,363 in 2017. In particular, transmission among gay and bisexual men has been declining since 2012.
Campaigns would welcome the availability of PreP – preoperative prophylaxis – as an important factor, although it is not the only one. PreP is an antiretroviral medication that can be taken daily by those at risk because they have a partner who is HIV-infected. It has been shown that it reduces the chance of infection by more than 90%.
HIV rights organizations took the NHS to court for refusing to abandon PreP and won in 2016. The NHS estimated that the drug would cost £ 20 million per year. As a result, 10,000 people were invited to PreP in court.
The PHE report states that using PreP may be one of the reasons for reducing infection, but the effect cannot yet be quantified. The study points to a package of measures, including the use of condoms, increased testing, especially in sexual health clinics, and those who diagnosed, to impose drug treatment more quickly.
“There is no doubt that HIV prevention efforts in the UK are working,” said Noel Gill, head of STIs and HIV in PHE. “Our efforts must continue to eliminate HIV. Since an estimated 8,000 people are still not aware of their infection, it is vital that people seek an HIV test if they consider themselves to be at risk, or accept a proposal for HIV testing by a health professional because the key to stopping the transfer. ”
Secretary of Health and Social Assistance Matt Hancock recalled the time when an HIV-positive diagnosis was “actually a death sentence.”
He said: “Today’s report is a keen and strong reminder of how far we have come. Now in the UK, almost everyone who has HIV is not only diagnosed and treated, but lives long, well, lives, and we are one of the few countries to achieve these ambitious UN goals.
“It seemed impossible just a few decades ago, but thanks to the efforts of public health authorities, charities, and the NHS to encourage early testing and high-quality, first-class treatment, we are moving forward in the fight against HIV.”
However, 43% of people who have been diagnosed late are still of great concern, which means that they can be sick and can become infected by other people before they become aware of their HIV status.
Deborah Gold, executive director of the National Aids Trust, said the group was delighted that all efforts had paid off so impressively. “This is an extraordinary moment in the fight against HIV, in which everything seems possible. We know what works. We have the tools. With the right political will, investment and public support, we can eliminate HIV as a threat to public health and make real progress towards achieving the UN goal of ending HIV-related stigma. ”
Ian Green, executive director of the Terrence Higgins Trust, said this was fantastic news. “But this is far from the end, and it’s time for us to be even more ambitious, as we are working on ending new HIV transmissions in the UK,” he said. He urged the government to commit to ending new infections by 2030.
The Local Government Association also applauded the news, but called for the abolition of 600 million pounds for public health benefits that fund sexual health services.