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Statement: New data highlights “profound inequalities” in fight against HIV

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

New data from UKHSA shows an increase in HIV testing and PrEP access, and a fall in diagnoses, for white gay and bisexual men. However, these improvements are not experienced by other groups, particularly women and people from ethnic minority groups.

The data shows that:

  • The number of HIV tests has increased from 2021 to 2022 (1,048,551 in 2021 to 1,155,551 in 2022) but is 15% fewer compared to 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • HIV test uptake in sexual health services was lowest amongst heterosexual and bisexual women (38% tested, 40% not offered a test, 22% declined a test).
  • The number of people accessing PrEP rose between 2021 and 2022 (86,324 in 2022 compared to 61,510 in 2021) but significant inequalities in uptake remain.
  • HIV diagnoses among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM) fell by 8% in 2021 compared to 2022, but increased among gay and bisexual men of Asian (17% from 75 to 88) and mixed or other ethnicity (25% from 71 to 89).

Deborah Gold, Chief Executive of National AIDS Trust, said: “Sexual health services are still struggling to recover from COVID-19 and mpox and we are deeply concerned that this is entrenching profound inequalities in HIV as these services simply cannot meet need.

“The system is particularly failing women. Far too few women are offered or take up HIV tests, even fewer than before COVID-19. More worrying still, a high proportion of women are diagnosed with HIV late, when it has likely affected their health. And many more women could benefit from the HIV prevention drug PrEP. Accessibility of HIV testing and PrEP must be increased, including making them more widely available in other services that women are more likely to access.

“The encouraging continued increase in testing and PrEP use, and falling diagnoses among white gay and bisexual men demonstrates what we need to see across all groups to be confident of meeting the goal of ending transmissions by 2030. This progress must be replicated for others, as HIV diagnoses have increased in heterosexual men and women, as well as gay and bisexual men of other ethnicities.

“The glaring disparities in progress on HIV between different groups demonstrate the urgent need for Government investment. This includes expanding routine HIV testing in emergency departments which has helped to diagnosed hundreds, yet is currently only operating in five cities in England."

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