Words: Steve Brown
The UK has hit the UN target on the way to eradicating the HIV epidemic by diagnosing and effectively treating more than 90 per cent of people with the virus.
In the UK last year, there were estimated 102,000 people with HIV and eight per cent were believed to be unaware of their infection, Public Health England revealed.
UNAids set a “90-90-90” target for every country calling for all health authorities to diagnose more than 90 per cent of people with virus, put 90 per cent on treatment and make sure 90 per cent experience viral suppression.
In July, Botswana, Cambodia, Denmark, Swaziland, Namibia and the Netherlands were revealed to have already reached the targets and around seven more were on track.
Now, the UK has beaten the “90-90-90” target after PHE reveal that 92 per cent were diagnosed, 98 per cent on treatment and 97 per cent on treatment virally suppressed.
Ahead of World Aids Day on Saturday (December 1), the new report also revealed that new diagnoses have continued to fall from 5,280 in 2016 to 4,363 last year.
Noel Gill, head of STIs and HIV at PHE, said: “There can be no doubt prevention efforts to end the HIV epidemic in the UK are working.
“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.”
Deborah Gold, chief executive of the National Aids Trust, added: “This is an extraordinary moment in the fight against HIV, in which everything seems possible.
“We know what works. We have the tools. With the right political will, investment and public support, we can eliminate HIV as a public health threat and make real progress towards the UN target to end HIV-related stigma.”
Health and social care secretary, Matt Hancock, continued: “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.”
Ian Green, the chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, said the news was fantastic but it is still “far from the end”.
He added: “But this is far from the end and it’s time for us to be even more ambitious as we work towards ending new HIV transmissions entirely in the UK.”