Scotland ahead on international HIV targets

Goal of zero new transmissions ‘more than achievable’ as latest figures show Scotland is meeting UN ‘fast track’ elimination target

Tuesday 27th August 2019

A report published today shows Scotland has met an international target to end the global AIDS epidemic ahead of schedule.

The UN’s 90-90-90 fast-track goal is for 90% of people living with HIV to know their status, 90% of those to be treatment, and 90% to be on treatment that stops the virus from spreading, by 2020.

Charity HIV Scotland says the figures show getting to zero new HIV transmissions is now “more than achievable”.

NHS experts calculate 91% of the 5,881 people living with HIV in Scotland have been diagnosed.

Of this group, 90% – 4799 – are receiving treatments that suppress the virus, which have been successful in 94% of cases.

This means an estimated 529 Scots are unaware they have HIV. Another 479 have been diagnosed but have been lost to follow up care.

Around three quarters of the people diagnosed with HIV are men, with men who have sex with men the group at highest risk of contracting the virus.

Experts say the figures show care and treatment is ‘optimal’ but caution nearly one in three diagnoses were at a ‘late or very late stage of infection’.

They say the focus must now be on reducing transmissions and identifying individuals who come to Scotland already infected.

HIV Scotland is calling for health bosses and politicians to commit to no new transmissions.

Chief executive Nathan Sparling says: "Whilst Scotland has reached the UNAIDS targets of 90-90-90, we know that there is still much work to do. We have all the tools to prevent every new HIV transmission in Scotland, and as such, each new transmission must be considered a major incident.

“This means investigating where prevention tools could have been implemented, learning and improving our interventions.

"With effective treatments, HIV is a long-term manageable condition, but people who are diagnosed late have an increased chance of long-term health problems related to late diagnosis.

“We have seen a drop in the late diagnoses rate, which is welcome, but we must continue to improve access to testing for anyone vulnerable to HIV to ensure they can access treatment as soon as possible. Too many people are being hospitalised with HIV due to late diagnosis.

"A concerning statistic in the report,” he continued, "is the number of young people who are not attending services to access treatment.

“This highlights the impact of stigma and the need for education in schools to combat myths and misconceptions about HIV. Stigma prevents access to treatment, and a widespread public campaign could be the answer to combat it.

"Through education and public awareness, we can improve all of Scotland's knowledge about the fact that people living with HIV, on effective treatment with an undetectable viral load, can't pass it on to their sexual partners. That message must be heard by everyone.

"This new report shows that with continued efforts, our plan to get to zero new HIV transmissions is more than achievable."