Pandemic ‘slows progress towards eliminating new HIV cases in UK’

Health leaders said the Covid-19 pandemic has slowed progress towards eliminating new HIV cases in the UK.

According to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), new diagnoses in heterosexual women slightly increased in 2021 despite low levels of HIV testing.

This has happened despite less HIV checking during the coronavirus crisis.

The health organization said the end of HIV transmission was “soon”, but more needs to be done to get eradication plans back on track.



The stigma and discrimination of the vast majority of people living with HIV is completely unacceptable – we must redouble our efforts to ensure that those affected not only survive but thrive.

Stephen Fry

It came as the Terrence Higgins Trust warned that people with HIV face alarming levels of stigma or discrimination because of their HIV status.

A survey of adults with HIV in the UK, released to mark World Aids Day, found that 74% said they had experienced discrimination or stigma.

According to the survey of 314 people, 59% said they were discriminated against in accessing health services.

33% said they had been discriminated against by their friends, and 30% said they had been discriminated against by a family member.

“It is extremely sad to hear that stigma continues to be a huge issue for people living with HIV in the UK,” said Ian Green, CEO of the Terrence Higgins Trust.

“The results of our vote show how much more we need to do to combat the heinous stigma associated with HIV.”

Commenting on the survey, TV presenter Stephen Fry said: “I have been in the fight against HIV since the 1980s and it is remarkable how much HIV diagnosis has changed since then thanks to effective treatment, but it is extremely sad to see that the stigma has not gone anywhere.

“The stigma and discrimination of the vast majority of people living with HIV is completely unacceptable. We must clearly redouble our efforts to ensure that those affected not only survive but thrive.”



With the decline in the number of people living with undiagnosed HIV infection, the end of HIV transmission in the UK is imminent, but the Covid-19 pandemic has slowed progress in some areas.

Dr Alison Brown, UKHSA

Meanwhile, UKHSA’s new figures show:

– New HIV diagnoses in the UK fell from 2,986 cases in 2019 to 2,023 in 2021.

– Transmission of the virus among gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men continued to decline.

– In 2021, there were an estimated 4,400 people unaware of HIV infection – including 1,100 straight men, 1,500 straight women and 1,500 gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men.

– 1,053,169 people were tested for HIV in the UK in 2021, a 20% reduction from reported testing when 1,319,915 were tested in 2019.

– Among heterosexual women, 429 were first diagnosed with HIV in 2021 – a 9% increase from the previous year. About 369 new diagnoses were made among heterosexual men – just two more cases than the previous year.

Dr Alison Brown, interim head of HIV surveillance at UKHSA, said: “The end of HIV transmission is imminent, with the reduction in the number of people living with undiagnosed HIV in the UK, but the Covid-19 pandemic has slowed progress in some areas – testing among heterosexuals and already with HIV. including care for the resident.

“Regardless of your gender or sexual orientation, using condoms, using PrEP (if you’re eligible), getting tested, and getting treatment if you test positive for HIV is vital to maintaining the health of you and your partner.”

Public health minister Neil O’Brien said: “Our commitment to prevention and public health campaigns has helped reduce new HIV infections by tackling stigma and encouraging more people to get tested and access life-saving treatment.”

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