London and the UK

The beginning of 2017 saw much to be positive about in the fight against HIV, with multiple news outlets reporting a significantly reduced level of new infections, especially in London.

Later in the year, a report from Public Health England (1) specified a 29% overall decrease in new diagnoses between 2016 and 2015 among the city’s gay and bisexual population. Some individual clinics reported an even bigger decrease – in the case of 56 Dean Street it was 42% (2)!

As encouraging as this is, other statistics would suggest this is no time to be complacent. The proportion of those with HIV who are diagnosed at a late stage of infection remains alarmingly high, and it’s particularly bad among heterosexuals. UK-wide in 2016, 60% of straight HIV-positive men were diagnosed at a late stage (CD4 count <350 cells/mm3), as well as 47% of straight female patients. Among gay and bisexual men, the figure was only 32%.

Our borough

In 2015, Public Health England measured the prevalence of HIV in Wandsworth (3) at roughly the same as the London average: 5.8 diagnoses per 1,000 residents. However, this is still more than double the national average of 2.3 per 1,000 residents, and an increase on previous figures (4) published in 2011, which gave a rate of 4.8 per 1,000.

Sitting either side of us, both geographically and in terms of HIV rate, are our neighbouring boroughs of Lambeth and Richmond. Lambeth maintains the highest rate of HIV for any local authority area in the UK, at 14 diagnoses per 1,000 residents. Meanwhile, Richmond’s figure is only about the same as the national average. Both of these may have come down slightly due to London’s aforementioned overall decrease in new diagnoses, but they nonetheless show how much work there is left to do in trying to halt the spread of the virus.

Sources

1. HIV in the United Kingdom: decline in new HIV diagnoses in gay and bisexual men in London, 2017 report

2. Not just PrEP: other reasons for London's HIV decline

3. Annual Epidemiological Spotlight on HIV in London, 2015 data

4. Review of HIV Epidemiology in London