According to a new report, there has been a 20 percent decline in the number of gay and bisexual men diagnosed with HIV. The report, which was based on 2019 numbers, shows 1,700 new HIV diagnoses in this demographic than the previous low in 2000, where there were 1,500 new cases.
There was also a 10 percent drop in diagnosed cases from 2018 to 2019 (4,580 cases to 4,139). It's also a 34 percent drop from a peak in 2014 when the UK saw 6,312 new diagnoses. In 2019, there were 1,600 cases diagnosed in heterosexual adults. It's the first time that the numbers of gay/bi men and straight men were so close.
HIV infections are higher in men who have sex with other men.
Andrew Bates, 26, was first diagnosed with HIV when he was 21. Bates is gay and didn't know he was at risk of catching the disease. Bates said it's rarely talked about, and he was scared. He said today's HIV awareness, prevention and treatment will hopefully lead to lower infection rates and help people who do get it feel less anxious.
He said with more talk about the disease – more so than five years ago – that people going through it and are HIV positive don't have to worry as much.
Bates said he's been taking medication since he was diagnosed and his HIV level is virtually undetectable. This means the virus is so low that passing it on to his partner is next to nil.
The decline in HIV cases among this demographic may be the result of condom use, frequent HIV testing and starting an HIV therapy as soon as one is diagnosed. The drug PrEP also helps to prevent a person from catching HIV. Local authorities have been provided funds to pay for this medication to people at the highest risk for an infection.
The funds were delayed, and according to Terence Higgins Trust, an HIV charity, the six-month wait is annoying given the progress that has been seen. In a statement, the charity said people had been turned away because there is no PrEP.
Bates said he feels the way sex education is taught in the school system is also helping. He said schools were not talking on topics that affected the LGBT community. Bates said the only time he heard about HIV was in a biology science lesson.
According to the head of the HIV surveillance at PHE, Dr. Valerie Delpech, it's possible that immediate treatment, routine HIV testing and PrEP use will help end the transmission rate of HIV by 2030.
She said further progress could be made if inequalities in ethnicity, sexuality and geography are addressed.
Bates said he's hopeful that HIV transmission will end sooner than 2030, especially with more discussions on the subject being done.
Written by Mark Riegel, MD
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