The World Reached the Biggest 20-Year Drop in HIV Diagnoses Among Gay and Bi Men

In the past, the mention of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) used to panic people because of the inevitable consequences brought on by the diagnosis. Luckily, the situation has started to shift due both medical advances and awareness campaigns. The latest statistics prove unequivocally that HIV is no longer the threat that it used to be.

Some recent information from the UK is showing the world just how far we’ve gone.

As per the latest report from the UK government, new HIV diagnoses among gay and bisexual men have reached their lowest level for the past 20 years. In fact, the levels are approaching those among heterosexual adults – an accomplishment that would have been considered impossible in the past.

Dissolving the HIV Gap

According to Public Health England, the number of new HIV diagnoses among gay and bisexual men outnumbered the new cases in heterosexual individuals by only 100.

And this isn’t the only good news from the latest annual report.

In 2019, there have been only 1,500 new HIV diagnoses among gay and bisexual men. This is a serious reduction from the 1,700 cases in 2018. The overall reduction among all adults on an annual basis is 10 per cent (a 24 per cent reduction in new diagnoses since 2014).

The total number of new HIV diagnoses is 4,139 among all demographics, in comparison to 4,580 cases in 2018 and 6,312 cases in 2014.

According to Public Health England, the reduction has resulted from HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), the ready availability of barrier contraception like condoms, frequent testing and immediate access to antiretroviral therapy (ART) for those who become newly diagnosed.

Historically, gay and bisexual men have been considered a high risk group. The new medical advancements, however, are enabling both the prevention and the early identification of new HIV infections. When these two protective elements are in place, the rapid spread of the virus gets curbed.

A Global Phenomenon?

Over the course of 2019, 1.7 million people across the world became HIV positive. This number suggests that the number of new infections has gone down approximately 40 per cent since the peak of the infection in 1998. During that year, nearly three million people became newly infected with the virus.

Since 2010, the decline has been 23 per cent from 2.1 million new cases.

Statistics pertaining to ART and PrEP access are also encouraging, regardless of the fact that the world still has a long way to go to ensure everybody’s right to treatment.

In 2019, 25.4 million people living with HIV out of 38 million total cases got access to antiretroviral therapy.

The number of people who have received access to HIV PrEP at least once over the course of a given year has also gone up. According to UNAIDS, fewer than 2,000 people had access to such therapeutic options in 2016. In 2019, the number has gone up to 590,000 people. While this is a fairly small number in light with the total number of new infections, it still paints an optimistic picture. Certain parts of the world, however, still experience major issues with the distribution and the access to prophylactic options like PrEP and HIV post-exposure prophylaxis or PEP.

In many parts of Europe, North America and Australia, PrEP is readily available to almost everyone. This well-established distribution network is the one mainly credited with the reduction of new HIV cases among high risk groups like men who have sex with men.

Singapore Joins in

Singapore shows consistency with the global reports pertaining to the decline of new HIV cases.

According to a Ministry of Health report,  the number of new HIV infections in 2019 was 323. These new infections brought the total number of active HIV infections to 8,618. In comparison, the number of new cases varied between 400 and 500 in the period from 2007 to 2017.

Unfortunately, about 54 per cent of the new cases were identified as a part of routine medical care during a later stage of the infection. Only 22 per cent of the new infections were identified as a result of routine programmatic screening. The share of people who went for voluntary screening and got diagnosed with HIV is the lowest – only 16 per cent.

These numbers reveal the need for more awareness and educational programmes that emphasise the importance of regular HIV screening for everyone and not just high risk individuals.

Quick and accurate HIV testing is readily available in Singapore. Shim Clinic operates a STD clinic in Singapore that give access to confidential consultations, testing and treatment selection opportunities. In addition, Shim Clinic makes HIV PrEP and PEP readily available, reducing the risk of an infection after unprotected contact.

There is no reason to fear HIV testing and the eventual result.

Rapid tests provide accurate results within 10 to 20 minutes. Knowing one’s status at an early stage enables the timely initiation of antiretroviral therapy. With the selection of the right ART medication and adherence to the medical plan, one’s viral load could eventually become undetectable.

If you’re not aware of the screening and prevention possibilities, please come to Shim Clinic during our working hours every day of the week. You can also contact our professionals to have your most pressing questions answered.