Monthly Archives: May 2016

We will lose the battle against #HIV without #LGBT decriminalisation!

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We have made huge progress in the fight against HIV/Aids in the last few decades, but there are still significant challenges. Communities most affected by the virus – sex workers, transgender people, men who have sex with men (MSM), and gay men – still face stigma and discrimination. Global infection rates have not fallen as much for these people as they have for the general population.

Article via The Guardian
guardianlogoIn fact, MSM and gay men are 19 times more likely to be infected with HIV than the general population. HIV infection between MSM and gay men ranges from21% in Senegal, to 13.5% in Nigeria and 16% in Kenya.

Transgender women (people who are born as men but identify as women) carry the biggest burden of the virus, being 49 times more likely to contract HIV. UNAids understands this and has been encouraging the increased involvement of trans people in the fight against HIV.

Many will argue that risky behaviour is the main cause of the high rates of infection among the MSM, gay, trans and sex worker communities. While it is a factor, these people face so much stigma and discrimination that it can be challenging for them to access the healthcare they need.

When I was diagnosed with HIV in 2004, I was afraid to start treatment despite working in the field for more than three years. I was afraid because of the shame, the stigma and the discrimination. Even when I moved to the UK, I could feel the pressure of the stigma I carried with me from Nigeria. – 

In 2000, the International Aids Conference in Durban provided a turning point in the fight against HIV/Aids. Jeffrey Sachs, a world-renowned professor of economics and senior UN adviser, gave a moving call for the creation of a global fund for Aids. The following year, funding and political connections were secured and The Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria was formed. This single act of putting money in the mouth of the political dragon changed the landscape of the global HIV epidemic.

At that time, 28.6 million people were estimated to be living with HIV, yet just 690,000 (2%) of them were receiving treatment through anti-retroviral therapy (ART). By 2014, the number of people living with HIV had risen to almost 37 million, but nearly 15 million people (40%) had access to treatment. By mid-2015, 15.8 million people were receiving ART, meeting and exceeding the millennium development goal.

Now we know that we can treat and manage HIV, our biggest challenge in the fight against the virus is people’s reaction to those living with it. This must be addressed as the International Aids Conference returns to Durban in July.

The increasing criminalisation of LGBT people – especially in African countries – puts people’s lives at risk as they pursue sexual pleasure. Of the 52 countries in Africa, 35 criminalise same-sex relationships, with penalties ranging from five to 14 years’ imprisonment. Efforts to decriminalise LGBT people’s relationships and lives must be at the forefront of discussions in Durban. We do ourselves a disservice if we think the battle against HIV will be won without a global call for decriminalisation.

The continuous global criminalisation of sex work also needs to stop. Sex work is work is not just a slogan, it is the reality for men and women who sell sex, and they too need a safe work environment.

There must also be an increased focus on sensitive and humane care and support for people living with HIV inAfrica – this is the only way we will drive the epidemic down further.

Aids 2016 should also be the place where discussion around pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for the most affected populations moves away from talking shop to action. We must not leave Durban without a proactive policy and a process of implementation for PrEP for the sex worker, trans , MSM and gay communities. It has been shown that if taken correctly, PrEP will work. Now is the time to take a bold step and provide access to those who need it, and follow in the footsteps of organisations such as Amsher and MSMGF, which work hard to make access to treatment a universal right.

As we prepare to return to Durban to discuss “Access equity rights now”, we need to commit to ending stigma and discrimination, including eliminating legalised discrimination. Until we do, HIV prevention and treatment will not be accessible or equitable for all.

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Why Are Women and Trans People Absent from HIV Prevention Campaigns?

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“I’ve been HIV-positive for 25 years,” says Juno Roche. “But as far as statistics go, I’m invisible. A few years ago, I noticed one of my prescriptions still had “male” on it. They still had me down as a man who sleeps with men.”

UK-specific data on HIV positive trans women like Roche simply doesn’t exist. “No data is presented for transgender people,” reads the last Public Health England report into HIV transmission. Given that, globally, trans people are an estimated 49 times more likely to have HIV, the emission is serious.

As you read this, the UK is waiting for the NHS to reveal its latest decision on the rollout of Pre Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), Truvada, a drug that’s been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection by 86 percent. In both the PrEP trials and the literature that followed, the focus was almost solely on cis, gay men. In the fight to be included, trans people stand alongside cis women, who are also noticeably absent from HIV campaigns.

Story via VICE.

Men who have sex with men (MSM) make up around 40 percent of new HIV diagnoses in the UK, so it’s logical that this group should have a central place in campaigns. Likewise, people of black African ethnicity are at higher risk and are, rightly, targeted by sexual health campaigns. However, campaigners believe the silence around other groups is dangerous.

Roche isn’t sure of the exact time she became HIV-positive. She sold sex during her 20s, to support a drug habit. She says that, for her, a desire to be accepted sexually had a direct impact on the level of risk she took. “You’re terribly vulnerable because, if you try to affirm your gender by sex—which I certainly have done—you become less keen to create boundaries like asking people to use condoms.”

“As chaotic as my life was then, if there had been a campaign which talked about a prevention for HIV, I would have sought it out,” she continues. “I was terrified of contracting HIV but knew I was at risk and that partners—paying or not—wouldn’t always use condoms.”

Sophie Strachan, is an HIV activist and trustee of the Sophia Forum, which campaigns for the meaningful involvement of women living with HIV in research, policy, and healthcare. As a woman living with HIV, Strachan says she often feels “secondary” when it comes to HIV/AIDS prevention.

“A significant population is being excluded,” she says. “Women are left behind in the response to HIV, yet we make up just over half the number, globally, of people living with HIV. There are 22,500 women with HIV in the UK.”

Being omitted from campaigns, Strachan says, means that “women of all ages and diversity are walking around just not believing they’re a risk group when it comes to HIV.”

“I’m seeing women who are presenting at hospital with acute, AIDS-defining illnesses—because there’s been a missed opportunity with their GP or because they’ve had undiagnosed HIV for a long time—just completely shocked that this is happening to them,” Strachan says.

Clinical trials across the board have traditionally been made up of cis men. As a consequence, there’s a lack of data around the way HIV and HIV medication affects women’s bodies.

When women are mentioned in relation to HIV, the focus is often on childbearing and the risk of transmitting HIV to the fetus. There’s also an automatic assumption that everyone is cis and heterosexual. Women who have sex with women have been largely invisible in the response to HIV/AIDS, and data remains as low for them as for trans women.

“It doesn’t come into the conversation that lesbian and bi women are even a number in the global epidemic of HIV,” Strachan says.

Crucially, for women, HIV can be both a cause and a consequence of gender-based violence. A recent report revealed that in the UK, 80 percent of women with HIV have experienced violence (the number is 89 percent globally).

Given these additional risks, Strachan says she’s disheartened at the lack of women-specific campaigns. PrEP would be an ideal additional choice for women unable to use condoms or for those who want to become pregnant. For vulnerable women, PrEP could be life-saving because, unlike condoms, it is personally controlled.

At CliniQ, a sexual health center for trans people, operating from London’s Dean Street Clinic, co-founder Michelle Ross says that invisibility in HIV campaigns is a huge problem.

“If you think of the campaigns that are going forward around access to PrEP, there’s very little awareness about the issues for trans women and trans men, or for cis women,” Ross says. “It reaffirms that people are invisible and therefore you don’t count. If you’re already a stigmatized community, it reinforces this. What’s really important is seeing someone you can relate to, hearing about health issues that relate to you.”

Outside spaces like CliniQ, visiting the doctor may already be an ordeal. “I was talking to a trans man who has a vagina and a penis, and they said that they’ve had people run out of the room when they went for a cervical smear,” Roche says. “Are you going to go back when that happens?”

Ross says that HIV campaigns need to address the specific needs of the trans community. “What I’d like to see is culturally aware terminology, especially around HIV meds,” she says. “There can be a real concern for some trans people that HIV meds are going to mess with your hormones. If you’ve reached a place where you feel more comfortable with yourself because of the hormones you’re taking, undoing that can have a really negative effect.”

For its part, PHE says it’s aware of the issues and is taking steps to fill in the data gaps. Valerie Delpech, Head of national HIV surveillance HIV and STI Department told VICE, “Public Health England has been working to improve the recording of gender identity among those attending for NHS HIV care. We are now rolling out a new reporting system across England, which includes an option for people to self-identify as transgender or non-binary.”

Earlier this month, the Sophia Forum called for PrEP to be made available for everyone who needs it. The statement was backed by organizations including ACT UP London, Body & Soul, Global Network of People Living with HIV, National AIDS Trust, and Positively UK.

High profile PrEP activists—who are mainly gay, cis men—agree that this isn’t a case of us versus them. As Greg Owen, an HIV positive campaigner and founder of I Want PrEP Now says, “Our approach to PrEP and HIV prevention needs to be the same as the virus’s approach to us: i.e., it doesn’t give a shit who you are. The clue is in the name: Human Immunodeficiency Virus. If you’re human this is your issue. PrEP needs to be access for all.”

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Anyone fancy a game of ‘Sex Roulette’?

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A dangerous new trend, in which teenagers have unprotected orgies with people who are HIV Positive, is reportedly on the rise in Barcelona.

According to several reports in the Spanish media, the high-risk activity – more commonly known as ‘sex roulette’ – has been growing in popularity across the Catalan capital. Much like Russian roulette, the sex parties are aimed at people who want to add an element of danger to their carnal connections, by inviting (at least) one ‘secret’ HIV positive person to the group.

The trend, which is apparently practised by people of all sexualities, echoes the equally contentious ‘bugchasing’ movement; where gay men actively pursue the virus for sexual pleasure.

According to Barcelona’s Hospital Clinic – which is currently treating around 100 positive people a day – the rise of ‘sex roulette’ has also been linked to a spate of other sexually transmitted infections including hepatitis C, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. It has also been connected to the notable decline in the amount of young people who are concerned with catching HIV (stats reveal that 24 per cent of 15-25-year-olds are “not afraid” of the virus).

“Going to sex roulette parties is about the risk, partygoers think the higher the risk, the stronger the thrill” – Kate Morley

But why, despite all the obvious dangers, is this disturbing trend so appealing? “Going to sex roulette parties is about the risk, partygoers think the higher the risk, the stronger the thrill,” says psychosexual therapist Kate Moyle. “In the case of sex parties the intense high is as you combine orgasm with high adrenaline. However the high is short term and the long term consequences are dangerous as not only is there the risk of contracting HIV, but other harmful sexually transmitted infections.”

It’s not the first time the media has reported on the ‘sex roulette’ trend, either. Back in 2014, Lavanguardia newspaper raised concerns about the number of straight teenagers indulging in these kinds of “high-risk” orgies; adding that they believed the craze had come “from Colombia”.

“We’ve become victims of our own success when it comes to treatment,” explains AVERT’s news officer, Caitlin Maron. “HIV treatment is much more accessible and effective in this era, and people living with HIV are living healthier lives and into old age. As such, many people may feel that becoming infected with HIV isn’t such a ‘big deal’.”

“Whilst the outlook for people living with HIV is certainly positive, it is still a life-long chronic condition, with treatment needing to be taken every day,” she adds. “Living with HIV can still be a significant challenge for many.”

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Are budget cuts risking the nation’s sexual health?

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Are cuts to public health budgets undermining years of progress on sexual health? Labour’s Baroness Gould and Lib Dem Lord Paddick urge the government to think again.

Sexual health cannot be allowed to go backwards. We need real leadership from Westminster, warns Baroness Gould

Story via Politics Home
Polhome_logoThe NHS is there to care for us when things go wrong and help us get better. Sexual health is different: it is there to ensure that we have good sexual health care throughout our lives. Over the past two decades we have seen huge strides in improving sexual health care.

Rates of teenage pregnancy are at the lowest level since records began. HIV is no longer the life sentence it was in the 1980s, and the rise in social media and technology has improved people’s awareness of the dangers of unprotected sex.

But we are now in danger of seeing that progress undermined.

Unintended pregnancy rates are still too high, particularly in older women, and 50% of pregnancies are unplanned.

More people are being diagnosed with sexually transmitted diseases, with rises in the rates of herpes, syphilis and gonorrhoea, and HIV rates soaring among at-risk groups. And progress in introducing sex education in schools has stalled.

These challenges are compounded by the duplication and fragmentation of the commissioning of sexual health provision, creating a lack of clarity as to who is ultimately responsible for maintaining and improving services across the country.

People visiting a sexual health service will think it is an NHS service. The transfer of responsibility to local government means it is susceptible to the pressures and strains on their budgets.

The government’s decision to cut public health budgets by £200m, with the prospect of further cuts to come, presents an additional challenge. These cuts are short sighted and will put greater pressure on an NHS which is already under huge strain.

The Advisory Group on Contraception has estimated that last year’s cut could lead to an additional cost to the NHS of £250m, wiping out any of the savings ministers had planned to make in the first instance.

There are many examples of councils striving to improve sexual health care for their communities, but there are others which are buckling under the strain, leading to a spike in teenage pregnancy rates and the closure of contraception clinics, most notably the internationally respected Margaret Pyke Centre. Women of all ages should be able to access high quality, open access, confidential sexual health services.

Some authorities have defunded all HIV support, removing services that are vital to many people with HIV, including coping with new diagnosis, peer support adherence to medication and safer counselling.

Following considerable trials and deliberation to test the effectiveness of providing pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to at-risk groups to prevent them acquiring HIV, the decision by NHS England to shelve the proposition was met with outrage, which resulted in NHSE last week saying “they will carefully consider its position on commissioning PrEP”.  The sector will rightly continue to exert pressure and hope there will be a change of mind.

Sexual health cannot be allowed to go backwards. We need to see real leadership from Westminster and Whitehall to change the nature of the debate about how we improve sexual health in this country.

It is a national issue, and we cannot stand by and do nothing.

Baroness Gould of Potternewton is a Labour peer and Chair of the Sexual and Reproductive Health in the UK APPG

We know PrEp works, writes Lord Paddick. So why is the government burying its head in the sand?

There is a pill that can stop HIV. It’s called pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, and it’s taken once a day by HIV negative people who are at high risk to prevent transmission. We know it works, clinical trials have proved it; we know it’s cost effective and other countries are using it to achieve our goal to eliminate HIV.

Despite this, NHS England scrapped their decision-making process for PrEP in March – giving us what can only be described as a political ‘sop’ that is too little too late and not realistic HIV prevention. Now, after uproar from the HIV sector including Terrence Higgins Trust, the NHS may be reconsidering their decision.

While we continue to wait, people remain at risk of HIV who would otherwise have been protected. The reality is eight gay men are infected with HIV in the UK every day, and despite our best efforts, more and more people are becoming HIV positive in this country with each passing year.

The groundbreaking PROUD study demonstrated that PrEP reduced the risk of HIV infection by 86% for men who have sex with men (MSM), with 100% protection seen when taken as prescribed during the trial.

The study also showed virtually no difference in reports of condom use and no difference in rates of other sexually transmitted infections – contradicting the claim that access to PrEP would encourage risky sexual behaviour.

In San Francisco – where PrEP has been given free to high-risk gay men since 2012 – the rates of HIV have plummeted, changing the face of this epidemic. Last year the World Health Organisation recommended that countries provide PrEP in order to meet its 90-90-90 target (90% of people living with HIV know their status, 90% of them are on anti-retroviral drugs and 90% of them are undetectable). France now provides PrEP through its healthcare system too, informed by the PROUD study. Isn’t it time we did the same here in the UK?

PrEP will also save money: HIV treatment is needed daily for life, costing £360,000 per person over a lifetime, PrEP is only needed in periods of risk, costing a maximum of £4,000 a year, per person. This figure is likely to decrease substantially when the patent for Truvada, the drug used for PrEP, expires next year.

PrEP gives us another option in our arsenal against HIV, alongside condom use.

We know it works, we know it can be cost-effective – are we going to bury our heads in the sand and ignore it?

The great challenge of the generation before us was to maximise life expectancy and quality for those who were HIV positive. We have achieved this. Let us now turn our attention to the great challenge of this generation – prevention.

We can’t afford not to provide PrEP on the NHS.

Lord Paddick is a Liberal Democrat peer

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David Cameron says approving PrEP on NHS will “make a difference”

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David Cameron has announced that he will push the NHS for a decision on PrEP availability “in this month if possible”.

During the Prime Minister’s Questions today, Cameron spoke in favour of funding the Pre-exposure Prophylactic treatment Truvada on the NHS.

Article via GayTimes
Gay-times-logo

The treatment – which has been approved by the World Health Organisation – is already available for those deemed at risk of HIV in the United States, Canada, France and Israel.

PrEP can reduce people’s chances of contracting the virus if taken daily, however in March this year the NHS decided to prolong their decision instead of making the drug available.

Finchley and Golders Green MP Mike Freer asked Cameron: “HIV infection rates in the UK are on the rise, and my right honourable friend will be aware that NHS England have refused to fund Pre-exposure Prophylactic treatment.

“Will my right honourable friend agree to meet with me in leading AIDS charities, so that we can review this unacceptable decision?”

The Prime Minister responded: “I think it’s right that [Mr Freer] raises this – it is my understanding that NHS England are considering their commissioning responsibility.

“I want them to reach a decision on this quickly, in this month if possible, because there’s no doubt there is a rising rate of infection. These treatments can help and make a difference.

“We are planning trial sites that are already all underway, we’ve invested £2 million to support these over the next two years. He’s right to raise this and I’ll make sure he gets the meetings he needs to make progress with it.”

Although there are no fixed dates, nor was Cameron very detailed in his answer, this is the most positive reply from the Government about PrEP so far.

Ian Green, CEO at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “We welcome David Cameron committing NHS England to making a long overdue decision on HIV prevention game changer, PrEP, this month.

“We urgently need NHS England to make PrEP available for those most at risk. Every day this is delayed, seven men who have sex with men are infected with HIV.”

He also thanked Mike Freer MP for “continuing to champion this life changing HIV prevention tool”.

Want More? – You might find this interesting: David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband praise HIV prevention drug PrEP

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How HIV-Positive Immigrants Get Stranded Abroad Without Meds

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Big Phama © 2014 Mitchell Dutfield.  Shot for the Shooting Challenge and winner of Week One!

Since he was diagnosed with HIV in 1994, José hadn’t missed a day of his antiretroviral medication.* That changed when he applied for his green card. José, a Mexican citizen, had been living undocumented in California for years until he married a US citizen and became eligible for permanent residency. Since he was not in the United States legally, he had to return to Mexico to have the required medical exams before he could return to the United States with legal status. He anticipated a two-week stay for the medical exams; he packed a month of medication just to be sure.

Article via Vice

Within a few days of arriving in Mexico, though, doctors informed José that because of his HIV status, he would need more stringent medical tests. He would need to stay in Mexico until they got the results, which would take three months. He frantically traveled to different states and cities, but couldn’t find a supply of his specific antiretroviral medication. So José went two months without it.

“It was a nightmare and such a stressful thing because you don’t know what the outcome is. You don’t know if you’re going to be allowed to come back,” said José, who also lost his job and medical insurance because of the unexpected wait. “We [José and his husband] would FaceTime, and I would just cry.”

People applying for a green card must pass medical examinations to ensure they have the required vaccinations, and that they would not pose a health threat to the current US population, according to United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS). One of those required tests is for tuberculosis. Typically, the TB test can be performed with a simple skin or blood test. But people with HIV, who are more vulnerable to contracting TB, are required to take a sputum test, where a small amount of mucus from within the lungs is tested for the bacteria. The test results can take three months to process.

Green card applicants who entered the US legally can do the medical tests in the United States, but applicants who are not here legally must leave the country to “reset” their immigration status, according to immigration attorneys. Those HIV-positive green card applicants can end up stranded for months without access to adequate medical care while they wait out the results of their immigration applications.

Aaron Morris, the executive director of Immigration Equality, said there has been a spike in these cases in the past 18 months. Since the Defense of Marriage Act was overturned in 2013, US citizens can legally marry and sponsor their same-sex partners for green cards. And since, in the US, HIV disproportionately affects the gay community, there have been more and more people like José—HIV-positive, undocumented immigrants applying for green cards, who end up unexpectedly stranded outside of the United States because of the TB test.

Immigration advocates say that a simple fix in procedure—allowing these green card applicants to conduct their TB tests in the US—would keep these pending permanent residents surrounded by their medical and family support systems.

Ally Bolour, an immigration attorney in Los Angeles, has already worked with ten clients, including José, who have fallen into the sputum test loophole. So far, all have involved green card applicants who were born in Mexico, a country with limited access to the medication they need.

“They have no place to stay and no way to earn an income [in Mexico]. Their family is in the US,” said Bolour of these clients. “We have a regulation that doesn’t make sense.”

Mixes of antiretroviral medicines that are very specific to each patient are often not available in Mexico, according to Tom Davies, a professor emeritus at the Center for Latin American Studies at San Diego State University. If it’s available, a month’s supply in Mexico can cost thousands of dollars; shipping it in from the United States can also be difficult.

Last year, Antonio—an HIV-positive undocumented immigrant who applied for a green card after marrying his partner—found himself stuck at the US consulate in Ciudad Juárez for more than a month. (He asked to be referred to by first name only, because his family does not know he is HIV-positive.) Antonio could only take a month’s supply of his antiretroviral medication with him, because that is all his insurance would give him in advance. His husband attempted to ship him more medication, but the package was turned away at the border because Mexico requires a permit to ship prescription medication.

In a last ditch effort, the couple and their immigration attorney contacted Luis V. Gutiérrez, a congressman from Illinois and a prominent advocate for immigration reform. Gutiérrez helped Antonio secure humanitarian parole, which allowed him to return to the US briefly for medical purposes.

“Government policies are generally one-size-fits-all, and sometimes people get put in difficult or potentially deadly circumstances,” Gutiérrez told VICE in a statement. “Sometimes people need help getting the bureaucracy to come to the logical and humanitarian outcome.”

Morris said his organization, Immigration Equality, is pushing for a change in the procedure—specifically, advocating to test HIV-positive, undocumented green card applicants in the US. The results could then be sent directly to US consulates ahead of the applicant’s green card interview.

Morris noted that by stranding people without access to their medication puts them at even greater health risks. “They are putting these people at greater risk by sending them to countries where TB is an issue and asking them to stay there for three months,” he said.

Antonio’s partner, Darren, emphasized that they were only able to get Antonio his medication because they had a committed immigration attorney, the help of a congressman, and the financial resources to stay afloat during the costly ordeal.

“I just hope we can prevent it from happening to someone else,” he said.

*Name has been changed to protect his identity.

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Imagine this… No new HIV diagnoses (& it’s happening right now in Denmark)!

Eradicating HIV is within our grasp, using the ‘treatment as prevention’ approach, experts have suggested.  The World Health Organization and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV said they plan to use the ‘treatment as prevention’ technique to eliminate the global pandemic.

Article via Daily Mail (Video’s sourced via YouTube).

The point will have been achieved, WHO experts say, when only one person in every 1,000 becomes infected each year.  Now, a nearly two-decade analysis by researchers from UCLA and Denmark, yields the first proof that the approach could be effective.   Reviewing Danish medical records, they found that the treatment-as-prevention strategy has brought Denmark’s HIV epidemic to the brink of elimination.

The study found that in 2013, the country had only 1.4 new HIV infections per 1,000 men who have sex with men, Denmark’s major risk group.

Professor Sally Blower, the study’s senior author and director of the Center for Biomedical Modeling at UCLA, said: ‘The Danes have done what nobody else in the world has been able to do.  They have almost eliminated their HIV epidemic, and they have achieved this simply by providing treatment.’

The paper notes, however, that the treatment programs in Denmark are exceptional.  ‘Treatment makes people less infectious,’ said Justin Okano, the study’s lead author and a statistician in Blower’s research group.

‘In Denmark, 98 per cent of patients take all of their HIV medications, which is why treatment as prevention has worked there.   ‘Unfortunately, adherence levels are nowhere near as high in other countries.’

The findings, which appear online in the Lancet Infectious Diseases, are based on a sophisticated statistical analysis of data from the ongoing Danish HIV Cohort Study, which began in 1995.

That project, which tracks all Danish men who have sex with men, and who have been diagnosed with HIV, was established and is run by Jan Gerstoft and Niels Obel, clinicians and epidemiologists in Denmark who also are co-authors of the new study.

For the current study, the researchers used an approach called CD4-staged Bayesian back-calculation to determine the number of Danish men who have sex with men, and who had become infected with HIV each year between 1995 and 2013.

They found that the number of infections has been decreasing since 1996, when effective HIV treatments were introduced in Denmark.   They then measured the correlation between the decrease in the number of HIV infections each year and the increase in the number of people who began treatment, and they found that the two were highly correlated.

‘What we found was very exciting,’ said Dr Laurence Palk, a co-author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow in Professor Blower’s lab.  Our results show treatment as prevention has been slowly but steadily working to end the Danish epidemic.’

The team calculated that by 2013, when the epidemic was close to elimination, there were only approximately 600 men in Denmark who have sex with men, and who were infected with HIV but had not been diagnosed.

‘Now that the number is so low, it would be fairly easy to do a social media campaign and get these men to be tested,’ ‘If they accepted treatment, it would essentially end this epidemic.’ – Dr Palk said.

Professor Blower, who also is a professor in residence at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, said: ‘Over 15 years ago, we made predictions based on mathematical models that treatment as prevention could work and be an effective elimination tool.  ‘It’s wonderful to see that this has actually happened.’

The researchers chalk up Denmark’s success to many factors, including the country’s universal health care system and the availability of free treatment for all people who have been infected with HIV.

However, the largest number of people with HIV – 25 million – live in sub-Saharan Africa, where health care systems are overextended and there are far fewer resources.

Professor Blower said that for the treatment-as-prevention approach to eliminate HIV epidemics throughout the world, all countries would need to emulate Denmark’s treatment programs.

‘Even in resource-rich countries, this would take a huge amount of money and effort,’ she said.  ‘The goal of elimination through treatment is aspirational, but Denmark has shown that – at least in resource-rich countries – it’s achievable.’

Want more? – see these links.

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