Health and Wellness

HIV diagnoses have reached their lowest levels in 20 years… and it’s not just because of COVID

A doctor drawing blood from a patient who spent hours doing his hair just to go to the doctor, apparently
Photo: Shutterstock

New HIV diagnoses among gay and bisexual men living in the U.K. have dropped to their lowest levels since 1998, according to a new report to Public Health England (PHE).

Researchers say the drop in new cases isn’t connected to a reduction in sex during the COVID-19 lockdowns. Rather, HIV diagnoses have been decreasing in the U.K. for a while thanks to increased condom use, HIV testing, and the availability of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a medication with can greatly reduce one’s chances of contracting HIV, as well as antiretroviral therapy, medications which make people living with HIV virtually incapable of transmitting the virus.

Related: Doctors “forgot” to tell a man he had tested HIV positive for 23 years

PHE’s new report shows there have been 540 new infections among gay and bi men so far in 2020, much lower than in 2000 when there were 1,500 new cases among gay and bi men, according to The Gay UK.

The report says that the high point for newly diagnosed HIV infections among gay and bi men was in 2011 with about 2,700 new infections reported. Comparatively, in 2000, there were only 1,500 newly diagnosed cases among gay and bi men, and in 2019, there were only 1,700 new cases.

The U.K. has set a goal of ending HIV transmission by 2030 and has made strides to try and meet an ambitious 90-90-90 goal set by the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

The UNAIDS goal challenges countries to make it so that 90 percent of all people living with HIV in their borders know their HIV status, 90 percent of all people with diagnosed with HIV receive sustained antiretroviral therapy, and 90 percent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy have viral suppression by becoming undetectable.

HIV rates among gay and bi men in the U.S. have also decreased from 2014 to 2018 by seven percent, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While the numbers of new diagnoses have remained stable for Black, Latino, and Asian men, they’ve decreased for white, Native American, Pacific Islanders and other multi-racial men.

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