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Pandemic cuts HIV diagnoses

Thursday December 2nd 2021

The UK saw a significant drop in new HIV diagnoses last year during the pandemic, according to new data.

The 35% reduction in diagnoses may reflect fewer opportunities for transmission – but also a reduction in testing, according to the UK Health Security Agency.

The figures were released for World Aids Day as the World Health Organization called for urgent action against the disease.

Last year there were 2,630 diagnoses compared with 3,950 a year earlier. The number of new diagnoses had already fallen by a third last decade.

The British government meanwhile pledged more than £23 million for a new HIV action plan – aimed at cutting infections by 80% by 2025.

The plan aims to increase testing in high risk populations and includes £20 million for testing in emergency departments.

Health secretary Sajid Javid said the aim was to end transmission of the disease by 2030.

Dr Valerie Delpech, Head of HIV Surveillance at UKHSA, said: “The continued decline in HIV diagnoses made in England is encouraging, but last year’s data needs to be considered in the context of a COVID-19 pandemic which saw prolonged and unprecedented public health restrictions, coupled with intense pressure on health services resulting in a decline in HIV testing overall.

“It is now crucial that we continue to ramp up testing and start people on treatment at the earliest possible opportunity.”

WHO warned of a range of inequalities that continue to “drive” the AIDS pandemic around the world, stating the world is not on course to end the disease by 2030.

WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “The pandemic has made things worse, with the disruption of essential health services, and the increased vulnerability of people with HIV to COVID-19. Like COVID-19, we have all the tools to end the AIDS epidemic, if we use them well.

“This World AIDS Day, we renew our call on all countries to use every tool in the toolbox to narrow inequalities, prevent HIV infections, save lives and end the AIDS epidemic.”

Tags: Flu & Viruses | NHS | UK News | World Health

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