Nurse-led clinic reports 'significant' fall in HIV diagnoses

A nurse-led sexual health clinic has reported a 'significant' 40% fall in HIV diagnoses.

A nurse-led sexual health clinic has reported a 'significant' 40% fall in HIV diagnoses.

Figures from 56 Dean Street clinic in London's Soho show only 373 new diagnoses were made between January and November 2016, compared to the 626 over the same period in 2015.

Prep pills debate
Use of PrEP drug in preventing HIV infection is credited as key in recent fall in HIV diagnoses.
Picture: iStock

This was despite carrying out the same number of tests as the previous year and seeing a patient population with a similar risk profile and diagnosis rates for other sexually transmitted infections.

The clinic is the UK’s largest sexual health clinic and accounts for one in nine HIV diagnoses in the UK. Staff at 56 Dean Street attribute the fall in HIV diagnoses down to a combination of:

  • Use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which involves HIV negative people taking a drug to help prevent HIV infection.
  • Early treatment initiation.
  • Increased awareness. 

Lead clinician at 56 Dean Street, Alan McOwan, said: ‘This drop in new HIV diagnoses is significant as the clinic is a major contributor to HIV diagnosis and care in the UK.

'We believe this trend could potentially be regional due to better HIV awareness, regular testing, early treatment and using prevention methods such as post-exposure prophylaxis [PEP, a treatment that can prevent HIV infection after the virus has entered a person's body] and PrEP across high risk population groups.’

'Game changer'

PrEP, described as a ‘game changer’ in the fight against HIV and AIDS, has been shown to reduce the risk of infection in people who are at high risk by more than 90%.

In November, the Court of Appeal upheld a High Court ruling which said NHS England did have the power to fund the drug, despite its pleas that the responsibility lies with local authorities.

NHS England announced in December that a £10 million, three-year clinical trial reaching 10,000 people will begin in 2017.

National AIDS Trust chief executive Deborah Gold said: 'The dramatic drop in new HIV cases at 56 Dean Street shows the power and potential of PrEP to stop HIV in its tracks. 

'It also shows that the people who could benefit the most from PrEP are aware of their HIV risk and are taking active steps to prevent transmission – even if it means accessing and paying for the medication themselves.'

Figures published by Public Health England to coincide with World AIDS day on 1 December revealed 101,000 people in the UK are living with HIV, with about 13,500 of that number undiagnosed. 

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