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UK is among the first to meet UN targets for HIV treatment and prevention, Public Health England says

Published on 29/11/18 at 01:22pm

The UK is among the first countries in the world to meet the HIV treatment targets set out by the UNAIDS 90-90-90 programme, according to a new report form Public Health England.

The 90-90-90 targets designate that, by 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status, will be receiving sustained antiretroviral therapy, and of those, 90% will have achieved viral suppression.

According to the new report, in 2017, 92% of the 102,000 UK patients living with HIV have received diagnosis, while 98% were receiving treatment, and 97% of those on treatment had achieved viral suppression. The statistics show that the UK is overachieving in relation to the goals set by the UN.

Rates of diagnoses in the UK are also continuing to fall, down to 4,363 from 5,280 in 2016 – a drop of 17%.

The report also noted that 87% of all those living with HIV have an undetectable viral load, meaning they cannot communicate their disease to others.

It is thought that these successes are the result of demonstrably effective prevention efforts, including increased HIV testing, condom use, shorter times until treatment is started, and the availability of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

However, it was noted that, because 43% of new HIV diagnoses were made at a late stage, so catching the disease earlier could lead to even better results in future.

“There can be no doubt prevention efforts to end the HIV epidemic in the UK are working,” commented Professor Noel Gill, Head of STI & HIV Department at Public Health England. “Our efforts must continue apace in order to eliminate HIV. With an estimated 8,000 people still unaware of their infection, it is vital that people seek out an HIV test if they consider themselves at risk, or accept the offer of an HIV test by a healthcare professional, as early diagnosis is key to stopping transmission.

“Treatment for HIV is freely available and highly effective, enabling people to live a long, healthy life,” he added. “There are now a variety of ways people can protect themselves from being infected with or passing on HIV, including the use of condoms, PrEP, regular HIV testing, and prompt initiation of antiretroviral treatment.”

Matt Hancock MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, also remarked: “Many of us will remember a time when an HIV positive result was effectively a death sentence. Today’s report is a poignant and powerful reminder of how far we’ve come. Now in the UK, almost everyone with HIV is not only diagnosed and in treatment, but living long, healthy lives - and we’re one of just a handful of countries to meet these ambitious UN targets. This didn’t seem possible just a few decades ago, but thanks to the efforts of public health bodies, charities and the NHS to encourage early testing and pioneer high-quality treatment, we are pushing ahead in the fight against HIV.”

Matt Fellows

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