New HIV diagnoses in the UK are higher among heterosexuals than gay and bisexual men, according to the UK Health Security Agency.

Forty-nine per cent of new HIV diagnoses in England are among heterosexual people compared with 45% for gay and bisexual men.

According to the Terrence Higgins Trust, “This is the first time in a decade that new diagnoses among heterosexuals are higher.” 

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Ian Green, Chief Executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, said that the reason for the drop was not related to COVID-19 lockdowns and is actually “a true change in the epidemic.”

PrEP Playing A Major Role

“The fall in diagnoses among gay and bisexual men is a result of the growing availability of HIV prevention pill PrEP and targeted promotion of routine HIV testing followed by the rapid initiation of HIV treatment for those diagnosed, meaning they are more quickly virally suppressed and cannot pass on HIV.”

“PrEP is highly effective at protecting against HIV. It is widely used by gay men but far less so by other groups,” said Green

Other reasons for the drop in cases include, faster, free, at-home tests as well as early detection and treatment. 

“Heterosexuals are also much more likely to be diagnosed late, once “damage to the immune system has already begun.” 

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Late diagnosis of HIV among gay and bisexual men is at 29% compared to 55% among heterosexual men and 66% over the age of 65.

Prince Harry Urges Testing

Prince Harry, whose mother, the late Princess Diana, worked to destigmatise HIV,  has urged people to get tested and to know their status. 

“Every single one of us has a duty, or at least an opportunity, to get tested ourselves to make it easier for everybody else to get tested,” he said. 

Continuing he said, “my mum’s work was unfinished, I feel obligated to try and continue that as much as possible.”

Green stresses, “We need to test more people more often and in more places – regardless of gender, sexuality, ethnicity or anything else. Currently, hundreds of thousands of people are leaving sexual health clinics without testing for HIV. That needs to stop.” 

 

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