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Scotland reports its lowest number of HIV diagnoses since 2003
Gus Cairns, 2017-03-24 09:10:00

A report released on Tuesday by Health Protection Scotland shows that last year saw the lowest number of people diagnosed with HIV within Scotland since 2003.

Last year, 2016, 285 people were diagnosed with HIV in Scotland. This contrasts with 6095 people diagnosed in the whole of the UK in 2015, the last year for which we have complete figures, meaning that roughly 5% of UK HIV diagnoses are in Scotland compared with roughly 10% of the population.

These 285 diagnoses represent a 21% fall from the previous year, and a 35% fall from the peak year for HIV diagnoses since 2000, which was 2007.

Eighty per cent of those diagnosed were male. The probable route of transmission was sex between men in 48% of cases, sex between men and women in 33%, and injecting drug use in 13%. These percentages exclude 15 people where the route of transmission is as yet undetermined.

The decline in diagnoses was seen in most groups and was particularly marked in people who appeared to have acquired HIV within Scotland, rather than outside it. Diagnoses in gay men fell 23% from 2015 and 31.5% from 2007. Among heterosexuals they fell 15% from 2015 and 57% from 2007, in other words by well over half. And among young people (aged 15-24) the 16 diagnoses seen represent half the number seen in the previous year and a quarter of the number seen in 2007.

Diagnoses of infections acquired within Scotland fell by 28% compared with a 16% fall in ones acquired outside Scotland, and in ones acquired outside the UK.

In gay men the pattern was interesting: while there was a fall of 37% in infections acquired within Scotland, there was actually an increase of 31% in infections acquired outside the UK, though numerically there were fewer of these than within-UK or within-Scotland infections.

In heterosexuals the opposite was the case: there was a 35% increase in diagnoses in infections acquired within the UK, and no significant decrease from the peak year of 2008. In contrast there was a 29% decrease in infections acquired outside the UK, though there is no clear decrease over the long term.

The one exception to this pattern was among people who inject drugs. Although the 36 infections seen represent a 37% decline in infections since 2015, this year saw by far the largest number of infections in this group this century. Up till 2014, infections among people who inject drugs represent no more than 6% of the annual total, but in 2015 it was 15% and last year 13%.

Health Protection Scotland estimates that 5277 people diagnosed with HIV are currently living in Scotland. Of these 89% are in regular care and 84.5% on antiretroviral therapy.