Decline in HIV transmission but progress slow in women and ethnic minorities

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has published the latest evaluation report into the government’s progress towards reducing HIV transmission. The report shows that there has been a continued decline in HIV transmission but progress has slowed particularly among women and ethnic minorities.

The number of new HIV diagnoses among gay and bisexual men fell by 42% from 1,239 to 724 between 2019 and 2022. England also met the UNAIDS 2025 95-95-95 targets for the third time with 95% of all people with HIV being diagnosed, 98% of those diagnosed on treatment and 98% of those on treatment being virally suppressed and unable to pass on the virus.

This second report of the monitoring and evaluation framework (MEF) focuses on the interim ambitions of England’s HIV Action Plan 2022 to 2025 to reduce HIV diagnoses first made in England (by 80%), AIDS diagnoses (at the time of HIV diagnosis) (by 50%), and HIV-related deaths (by 50%) between 2019 and 2025.

Despite a significant fall in cases among white gay and bisexual men between 2019 and 2022, there are groups of ethnic minority gay and bisexual men in whom new HIV diagnoses are not decreasing at the same rate. In 2022, 42% (304 of 724) of diagnoses in gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM) were among ethnic minority groups compared to 34% (417 of 1,239) in 2019.

Overall new HIV diagnoses first made in England fell by 13% from 2,819 in 2019 to 2,444 in 2022. However, between 2021 and 2022 diagnoses rose from 2,313 to 2,444. In order to achieve the 2025 transmission target, HIV transmission would need to fall by 627 per year.

This recent rise is partly due to a slowing of progress towards elimination in heterosexual women and ethnic minority groups. Cases in heterosexual women, which despite reducing from 589 in 2019 to 447 in 2021, rose by 26% from 447 to 564 in 2022.

Among white British women, diagnoses fell by 39% between 2019 and 2022, compared to 6% among black African women. Among heterosexual men, new HIV diagnoses fell by 25% from 458 in 2019 to 281 in 2022. 

Dr. Alison Brown, Interim Head of HIV Surveillance at UKHSA, said: “England remains a world leader in efforts to reduce HIV transmission and ensure that those diagnosed have timely access to effective treatment.  

“While there is much to celebrate, with numbers of HIV diagnoses continuing to decrease in certain groups, there is also much more to do. HIV diagnoses are increasing among heterosexual populations, particularly among women.”

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