News of a man being ‘cured’ of HIV in the UK is circulating. The London patient, who was being treated for cancer, now has undetectable HIV viral loads and is no longer taking HIV medication following his stem cell transplant. Despite this, researchers say it is too early to say that the patient has been ‘cured’. Though this case may bring hope for a cure to those living with HIV, it is still only the second case of its kind. The therapy is also not suitable as standard HIV treatment due to the toxicity of chemotherapy, which was initially used to target the patient’s cancer – not his HIV infection. This recent case raises questions as to how well the country is doing in terms of treatment and overall HIV statistics in the UK.
The UK has taken an active role in addressing the HIV epidemic since it first began – investing in research and technology to help prevent new HIV infections and stop AIDS-related deaths. In recent decades, significant progress has been made in antiretroviral treatment coverage; the UK was also one of the first countries to surpass UNAIDS’ 90-90-90 targets. In 2017, London exceeded UNAIDS’ hopeful 95-95-95 target with figures of 95-98-97.
Despite this, London continues to have the highest rates of HIV in the country – with the infection affecting Londoners more than any other part of the UK. Late-stage HIV diagnoses are still yet to be tackled in the UK; evidence has also suggested that there is a consistent decline in HIV awareness and knowledge throughout the country.
Today we’re setting a new goal: eradicating HIV transmission in England by 2030. No new infections within the next decade. Becoming one of the first countries to reach the UN zero-infections target by 2030.Matthew Hancock, Health and Social Care Secretary
HIV testing plays an important role in ending the HIV epidemic. By knowing your status, and receiving treatment, you can prevent further health problems – such as AIDS – from developing. It also decreases the chances of passing on the virus to your sexual partners whilst you are unaware of your infection.
Early detection is vital to protecting your sexual health as this enables you to start treatment earlier. Current forms of HIV treatment are effective and, if taken consistently and correctly, can help you reach a stage where your viral load is ‘undetectable’. This means that the levels of the virus can no longer be measured in your blood stream. If you are at this stage for 6 months or more, you are unable to pass on HIV through sex. However, you are still advised to use a condom during any sexual activity.
The big breakthrough came in the mid 1990’s with the advent of HAART, (Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy). This new cocktail of drugs at last delivered on the hopes of millions following the bitter disappointment suffered when AZT (azidothymidine) on its own was found not to be as effective in prolonging the life of those infected with HIV. Today, accessing the best medicines to treat HIV is easy. Following a positive test for HIV you will be referred to a specialist who will check the status of your immune system and prescribe the right combination of drugs. If you take them as prescribes, the amount of virus in your blood should quickly fall below detectable levels.Mike Asher, Co-Founder of Better2Know
 Avert: HIV and AIDS in the United Kingdom (UK)
 Healthy London: London the first global city to exceed UNAIDS 95-95-95 ambitions
 National AIDS Trust: HIV in the UK statistics – 2017
 Public Health England: Progress towards ending the HIV epidemic in the United Kingdom 2018 report
 Terrence Higgins Trust: HIV statistics
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