Major breakthrough: Britain reports huge fall in HIV rates

New data in the United Kingdom shows that they number of new diagnoses of HIV among gay and bisexual men has dropped dramatically.

Britain’s public health experts say a 32% drop in new diagnoses is the most significant downturn in the figures since the AIDS crisis began.

Targeting those at greatest risk and encouraging regular testing, the introduction of rapid testing, and the take up of PrEP have been attributed as major drivers of success.

The figures come from London’s five biggest sexual health clinics and cover the year beginning in October 2015, and are in comparison to the previous 12 months.

Late last year 56 Dean Street, London’s biggest sexual health centre for men who have sex with men (MSM), reported a significant drop in the rate of new diagnoses. The latest figures show that the change was not limited to that clinic but was more widespread.

Valerie Delpech, head of HIV surveillance for Public Health England told The Guardian that the results were unprecedented and that the success could be replicated across the country.

“Basically we are witnessing a phenomenal experiment. We are observing it. What we are seeing is the first downturn of the HIV epidemic in gay men.” Delpech said.

“There is absolutely no reason why we cannot scale that up to further reduce new infections in gay men – and also in all people who may be at risk of HIV in the UK, regardless of gender, ethnicity or sexuality.”

Similar moves have been introduced in Western Australia. Rapid testing is available at the M-Clinic and a number of sites around Perth, while the WA AIDS Council is expected to begin a trial of PrEP in the second half of 2017.

Rapid testing allows people to find out the result of a HIV test within a few minutes, previously the test needed to be sent to a laboratory, a process that could take several weeks.

Pre-Exposure Profolaxis (PrEP) is a treatment that allows HIV-negative people to protect themselves from the virus by taking a daily dose of the medication Truvada. The treatment has been shown to have over a 99% success rate in stopping the transmission of HIV.

In recent years people who are diagnosed with the virus have been encouraged to begin medical treatment immediately, the effect has been that people carrying the virus do not have a detectable load, and are unable to transmit it to other people.

OIP Staff

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