The United Kingdom has seen a major turnaround in HIV diagnosis figures, which declined 18 percent between 2015 and 2016 after rising steadily since the mid-1990s. Additionally, the 56 Dean Street clinic, a sexual health clinic in London that diagnoses one in nine HIV cases in the United Kingdom and half of the capital’s cases among MSM has charted an 80 percent drop in its monthly diagnosis rate since mid-2015.

According to newly released figures from Public Health England (PHE), 5,164 people were diagnosed with HIV in the United Kingdom in 2016, compared with 6,286 in 2015. The annual diagnosis rate had risen almost unabated since hovering at about 2,900 between 1991 and 1998.

Diagnoses among MSM increased from 2,850 in 2007 to 3,570 in 2015 and then in 2016 finally fell by 21 percent, to 2,810.

According to PHE, these declines are driven by a soaring rate of HIV test taking among MSM at sexual health clinics, including repeat testing among higher-risk men. In 2007, these clinics conducted 37,224 tests, a figure that hit 143,560 in 2016. Rising rates of antiretroviral (ARV) treatment among those living with HIV as well as the recent surge in the use of Truvada (tenofovir disoproxil fumarate/emtricitabine) as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) among MSM have likely been instrumental in the sudden turnaround in this demographic’s diagnosis rate.

In certain key parts of London, HIV diagnoses declined by 29 percent between 2015 and 2016, from 1,554 to 1,096. The parts of the city that experienced the highest rates of testing and prompt access to ARV treatment saw the greatest declines diagnoses. At 56 Dean Street, 76 percent of people newly diagnosed with HIV begin treatment at their first medical appointment.

The 56 Dean Street clinic in LondonBenjamin Ryan

The 56 Dean Street clinic diagnosed a peak 72 HIV cases in June 2015, a figure that tumbled to just 11 in September 2017.

Between 2007 and 2015, the median CD4 count at the time of HIV diagnosis for MSM rose from 396 to 500, indicating that men were getting diagnosed earlier in the course of their infection.

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