A new report by Public Health England says that HIV infections in gay and bi men (GBM) in the United Kingdom have plummeted by 71% thanks to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) drugs such as Truvada. GBM HIV transmissions dropped in the U.K. from 2,800 in 2012 to 800 in 2018. The strongest declines were found in residents of London, those aged 25 to 34 years, in people of black African ethnicity and in people born abroad.
Studies have shown PrEP to be up to 99 percent effective at HIV transmission prevention when taken daily. Experts also credit an increase in HIV treatment and testing as factors in the transmission rate reduction. The number of men having sex with men with undiagnosed HIV also halved between 2014 and 2018.
“I feel very strongly that we must end HIV transmission,” said Health Secretary Matt Hancock. The UK’s goal is to end HIV transmission by 2030.
“HIV has brought untold hurt and suffering to so many, so it is encouraging to see transmissions continue to fall across the UK,” he said.
Advocacy group Prepster’s Phil Samba said it’s troubling that the government won’t commit to making PrEP more widely available in England. “The figures show the impact that PrEP, combined with increases in HIV testing and rapid access to HIV treatments can have… yet, Prep is still not freely available on the NHS in England and unnecessary HIV infections are happening because of foot-dragging by politicians,” he said.
93% of the estimated 103,800 people living with HIV in the UK in 2018 have been diagnosed with the virus. 97% of these people are currently receiving treatment. 97% of these people cannot transmit the virus and do not have detectable HIV in their blood.
Truvada recently made headlines when Facebook started deleting misleading advertisements regarding tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF) medications like Truvada. The ads misleadingly implied that some of the side effect risks from taking TDF drugs as PrEP drugs are the same as the side effect risks are for HIV positive people who take TDF drugs to treat their infections.
A 2010 study linked TDF use in HIV positive people with osteoporosis and decreased bone density. A 2018 study linked TDF use in HIV positive people with renal failure and kidney damage. TDF use in HIV positive patients was shown to be more likely to lead to kidney damage or bone density loss than TDF use as a PrEP drug by a 2016 study.