Metro Weekly

PrEP, testing, and treatment as prevention leads to 80% drop in new HIV diagnoses

London sexual health clinic 56 Dean Street noted the impact of combining treatment and prevention methods in reducing new infections

hiv, truvada, prep, drug, gilead
Gilead Science’s Truvada for PrEP — Photo: Tony Webster

A study out of England has found that by combining multiple approaches to tackling HIV, new diagnoses of the virus plummeted.

The study, conducted at sexual health clinic 56 Dean Street in London, was published in the journal HIV Medicine, ContagionLive reports. It found that a combination of methods had led to “an 80% reduction in the number of HIV diagnoses between 2012 and 2017,” Nicolo Girometti, consultant in HIV medicine at 56 Dean Street, told Contagion.

Specifically, Girometti highlighted PrEP to prevent new HIV infections, increased and readily available testing to detect new infections early, and the use of antiretroviral treatments to get those living with HIV to undetectable status.

Antiretrovirals suppress the levels of the virus in a person’s body. When they can no longer be detected by normal testing, that person becomes “undetectable” — and studies have shown that being undetectable “effectively prevents” transmission of the virus to an HIV-negative person during condomless sex.

One study of serodiscordant gay couples found zero instances of transmission where the partner living with HIV was undetectable.

PrEP — also know by the brand names Truvada and Descovy — uses antiretrovirals to help prevent HIV-negative people becoming infected with the virus. A once-daily pill, it reduces the risk of transmission of the virus during sex by 99%, according to the CDC.

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Girometti also pointed to increased testing, both in terms of the number of tests being conducted, as well as the frequency of individual testing. In 2012, Dean Street conducted 4,732 tests per quarter — that had risen to 10,362 per quarter by 2017, with the number of patients testing more than once per year up by 25%.

Researchers also noted that the clinic’s location in the heart of London’s gay scene had contributed to the success of its HIV prevention and treatment program, alongside community engagement and social media campaigns.

Dean Street’s flexible testing model has previously been recognized by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which highlighted it at the 2016 STD Prevention Conference.

Girometti said that, moving forward, researchers would be focusing on the impact on HIV infections following the “wider introduction of PrEP which started happening in 2018.” Researchers will also try to determine impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on HIV testing and diagnoses.

Public Health England, a government agency, last year found that new HIV diagnoses in England were the lowest they had been in 20 years — a change also attributed to PrEP, frequent testing, and immediate access to antiretroviral therapy.

In 2019, the Australian state of New South Wales specifically highlighted the introduction of PrEP in helping the state reach the lowest number of new HIV infections since records began in 1984.


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