New HIV data must be "a wake-up call" to Government to get England back on track for 2030 goal, says National AIDS Trust
Today, on World AIDS Day 2022, the UK Health Security Agency has published the latest data on HIV in England. The reports update on progress against England’s commitment to end new HIV transmissions by 2030 the Government's HIV Action Plan, designed to achieve this goal.
Key findings include:
- We are not yet on track to end HIV transmissions by 2030, or to meet the interim 2025 target. Services are still struggling to recover post-Covid.
- First-time diagnoses in England have increased slightly from 1,987 (2020) to 2,023 (2021).
- Numbers of HIV tests in specialist sexual health services remained significantly lower than pre-Covid, with 1,000,598 tested in 2019 compared to just 478,203 in 2021.
- The number of people with HIV not attending care for at least 15 months ("not retained in care") has increased dramatically since 2019, from 2,519 (2019) to 4,444 (2021).
- While there is a continued decrease in HIV transmission among gay and bisexual and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM), the rate of decline is slower and progress is still greater in London than elsewhere. Progress on reducing HIV transmissions for women and heterosexual men is also much slower.
- 40% of people diagnosed with HIV in 2021 were diagnosed late, meaning they are far more likely to be unwell due to HIV and experience worse outcomes. This is an increase from 35% in 2019.
Deborah Gold, Chief Executive of National AIDS Trust said, “Today’s statistics should be a wake-up call to Government. We are sleepwalking towards missing the 2030 national targets to end new cases of HIV. The dual impacts of Covid and mpox means levels of HIV testing in sexual health clinics are dramatically down, access to the HIV prevention drug PrEP is disrupted, and inequalities are deepening.
“We need action quickly to address these challenges. This should include a commitment to urgently scale up opt-out HIV testing in emergency departments to all major towns and cities. There is clear evidence that the existing pilot programme is hugely successful in London, Manchester, Brighton and Blackpool. We cannot allow people who are living with HIV without realising to continue to visit hospital in other parts of the country and leave without being diagnosed. There must be support to get PrEP available outside of just sexual health services, and additional targeted funding to reengage in care those living with HIV but not getting treatment.”