New HIV diagnoses in gay men at 20-year low

HIV diagnoses in gay and bisexual men in 2019 outnumbered new diagnoses in heterosexual adults by only 100 cases, according to a new report by Public Health England.

The number of gay and bisexual men (GBM) with newly diagnosed HIV fell to the lowest point in 20 years, with 700 new diagnoses in 2019 compared to 1,500 in 2000.

Overall, the number of people with a new HIV diagnoses fell by 10 per cent (from 4,580 in 2018 to 4,139 in 2019). There was also a 34 per cent decline from a peak of 6,312 new diagnoses in 2014.

There were 1,700 new HIV diagnoses in gay and bisexual men (GBM) in 2019 compared to around 1,600 cases in heterosexual adults. This is the lowest number of new HIV diagnoses in GBM since the year 2000 (1,500) and since 1998 in heterosexual adults (1,600).

HIV transmission in GBM has fallen by 80 per cent and newly acquired HIV infections fell from an estimated peak of 2,700 cases in 2011 to an estimated 540 in 2019.

The report links the decline in HIV transmission in GBM to prevention measures, including the use of condoms, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), frequent HIV testing in a wide range of settings and starting antiretroviral therapy (ART) as soon as possible after diagnosis. Treatment is now so effective that 97 per cent of people receiving ART have undetectable levels of virus.

Dr Valerie Delpech, Head of HIV Surveillance at PHE, said: "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.

"Further progress can only be achieved if we also address the inequalities in reducing HIV transmission that exist around sexuality, ethnicity and geography."