The number of people diagnosed with HIV at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, London’s largest sexual health service, has dropped by nearly two thirds in two years.
According to an article from the Evening Standard, which was written for the #AIDSFREE campaign with the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the dramatic decline is down to a combination of more HIV testing and getting patients on medication more quickly.
Dr. Asboe, the Clinical Director of the HIV Medicine and Sexual Health Directorate, said the decline in new diagnoses began in 2014, when an increase in testing for HIV coincided with implementation of antiretroviral therapy as soon as people were diagnosed.
“In the bad old days of the 90s people might have to have had 15 medicines in a day, with side effects. People were very keen to delay treatment until necessary.”
Improvements in medication mean there are fewer side effects and the virus is undetectable in the blood, meaning it is not possible to pass it on. Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) tablets taken by HIV-negative individuals before intercourse has been shown to greatly reduce the risk of HIV infection.
“I really do think it’s achievable to eradicate HIV” said Dr. Asboe. However, he added that current efforts are not sufficient, particularly as only certain groups (often men) know about and use certain treatments, such as PrEP. This treatment is not available in England via the NHS outside of an ongoing NHS Impact Trial.
“Testing needs to go further and further. We need to get to those people who have never tested and make sure we maintain repeat testing in those people who are high risk.”
The progress we have made in the fight against the AIDS epidemic has been tremendous. But, as Dr. Asboe says, it is not the end.
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Through UK Aid Match, the UK government will double public donations up to £2 million to be spent across projects in Maputo and Nairobi.
£5 provides vital HIV testing information to those at risk
£20 will pay for a self-testing kit so those stigmatised can receive the help they need
£100 will ensure someone with a positive diagnosis is given the right treatment