HIV infections among men who have sex with men in the UK are still at record-high levels, data has shown.
Public Health England released a report today on HIV transmission, following confirmation a year ago that transmissions among gay and bisexual men have reached a new record high.
This year’s data shows that of the 6,095 people newly-infected with HIV in the past year, 3,320 were gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) – a failure to cut transmissions from last year’s high of 3,360).
The report confirms that more gay men are now being diagnosed with HIV every year than at any point since records began, during the AIDS crisis.
In total, there are now 88,769 who are living with diagnosed HIV and accessed HIV care, with more than 18,000 people thought to be living undiagnosed.
Sexual health campaigners have cited cuts to HIV-prevention services, a lack of HIV education and awareness, and the failure of NHS England to greenlight HIV-preventing PrEP drugs as some key factors in the out-of-control transmission rates.
In response to the new data Yusef Azad, Director of Strategy at National AIDS Trust, said: “This shows just how inadequate our current HIV prevention efforts are in the UK. We are as a nation sitting back and allowing the HIV epidemic to get worse.
“The high number of new HIV diagnoses among gay and bisexual men shows that we need to do much more to halt the epidemic. Spending money now on prevention saves the NHS budget millions in the near future.
“We need both to expand current prevention activity and also introduce PrEP as soon as possible, a new prevention option which would mean we at last see reductions in rates of HIV.”
The report also found that 39% of people were diagnosed late, at a point at which they are likely to have had the virus for more than three years.
It has serious implications for the health of the individual and increases the risk that HIV be passed on to others as the person is unaware and not on treatment.
Yusef Azad added, “We need to dramatically improve access to testing. We welcome the gradual decrease in late diagnosis rates over the past 10 years, but it’s still not good enough that we are missing so many opportunities to diagnose people earlier.
“Now we know just how effective HIV treatment is – not only at giving an individual a long and healthy life but at reducing transmission rates – we have to dramatically upgrade testing efforts and normalise testing for HIV.”