News » AIDS

Reports: British HIV Rates Plummet Steeply Since 2014

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday January 21, 2020

A new report from Public Health England reveals that rates of new HIV infections in the UK have plummeted dramatically - by 71% - since 2012.

The report - titled HIV in the United Kingdom: Towards Zero HIV transmissions by 2030 - contained data through the end of 2018.

The report noted that rates of new HIV infections had hit a "peak" in 2014, but since then have tumbled. The decline was notable among heterosexuals as well as gays and bisexuals. The report indicated that testing and effective treatment regimens are major factors in the decline, as is PrEP )"Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis," in which HIV-negative people take daily doses of antiretrovirals to prevent the HIV virus from infecting them in the event that they should become exposed to HIV) and clean needle programs for intravenous drug users.

A BBC report particularly took note of the role played by PrEP in the sharp decline of new infections.

In a sidebar titled "What is PrEP," the BBC outlined the facts around Pre-Exposure PRohylaxis, setting out the facts as follows:

PrEP, the article said is

  • A pill is taken daily or on demand prior to having sex, to prevent HIV infection
  • If taken consistently, when a condom is not worn and someone comes into contact with HIV, it protects cells in the body and disables the virus to stop it multiplying
  • A UK Medical Research Council-run study found an 86% fall in new HIV infections among gay men on Prep compared with non-users
  • Many in the sexual-health sector say Prep, when taken correctly, is almost 100% effective
  • It is aimed at men who have sex with men without a condom as well as others at high risk, including HIV-negative partners of individuals with HIV that is not virally suppressed
  • Researchers are assessing demand for the drug and its effect on the number of new HIV infections

    A spokesperson for advocacy group Prepster told the BBC that though great strides have been made, more needs to be done, and called upon politicians to see the effort through.

    "...PrEP is still not freely available on the NHS in England and unnecessary HIV infections are happening because of foot-dragging by politicians," declared Phil Samba. "Today, we make a clear call to" politicians, Samba added. " 'Get a grip and fund a full PrEP service now.' "

    Other contributing factors to the sharp reduction in new British cases of HIV infection included quality clinical care, condom use, and partner notification.

    Said the report:

    There is evidence that combination prevention (including condom use, expanded HIV testing, prompt ART and the availability of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP))is working in the UK. For the third consecutive year, there have been steep declines in new diagnoses in GBM — the group with the highest transmission rate. Further declines and the possibility of eliminating transmission of HIV in the UK will depend upon sustained prevention efforts and expansion to reach all.

    The government website where the report was available advised readers to get tested and know their status. Text at the site said:

    Late stage infections have more than a ten-fold increased risk of death in the year following diagnosis compared to those who are diagnosed early and begin treatment immediately. If you are living with HIV or you are at high risk of acquiring HIV, then knowing your HIV status is vital.

    The new report was in agreement with a report from last autumn that showed a decline in rates of HIV infection in Britain, with rates having 'fallen to their lowest level since 2000."

    A similar, if less drastic, trend is also taking place in the United States, according to website That site showed statistics indicating that new infections rates for many - though not all - demographic groups had fallen, if only slightly, since 2016.

    The site also took note of the fact that more than 50% of new HIV infections have taken place in Southern states - perhaps not coincidentally, the region in the U.S. where state governments have been most actively promoting legislation that targets the LGBTQ community, restricting rights and protections for non-heterosexuals.

    Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

    Comments on Facebook