The battle to stamp out HIV is on the vurge of a pretty huge breakthrough, as Doctors in London have reported a massive drop in the number of infections.
The number of HIV infections diagnosed at London’s biggest clinic were at nearly half (or 42% to be exact) the previous rate last year, and we saw similar figures in other clinics as well. At Dean Street, the number of HIV positive diagnosis dropped to 393 from 679 in 2015.
What is the cause of this dramatic drop, I hear you ask?
Well, we have the adoption of a new early intervention program which was pioneered in San Francisco.
The lead clinician at Dean Street in London, Dr Alan McOwan, spoke to the Evening Standard about the drop in infections: “I’ve been working in sexual health for 20 years. It (the number of new infections) has always gone up or stayed stable.”
“This is what I have been waiting 20 years to see. Everyone is so excited. It makes people feel it’s achievable and we can finally beat this thing. It’s London’s time to grab its chance.”
The new programme requires that patients diagnosed as HIV positive receive antiretroviral medicine within a week of their diagnosis, which cuts down their infectiousness which of course lessens the chance of the disease spreading.
There is also the possibility that people with HIV are buying medicines online which also limit their infectiousness, which also lessens the chance of spread.
What’s interesting to note is that the London clinics have seen a higher drop than San Francisco, due to the lack of need for medical insurance in the UK, which of course not everyone can afford.
According to Public Health England, the advances made in the treatment of HIV have turned it from a fatal disease to one that is “chronically manageable”. However, there were still 594 deaths from HIV in the UK last year.
Dr McOwan added: “We were determined that 2016 would be the year that London learned from San Francisco’s success. This drop in new HIV diagnoses, if confirmed, would be really significant as the clinic is a major contributor to HIV diagnosis in the UK.”
“Reports from other London clinics suggest this could be regional thanks to better HIV awareness, frequent testing, early treatment and use of prevention methods such as PEP and PrEP in key populations. We’ve also concentrated on offering treatment to reduce infectivity to others. In the last six months, 76 per cent of our clients started HIV treatment at their first appointment.”
“I think what San Francisco has shown is that you win against HIV by throwing everything at it,” Dr McOwan said.