More than 5,000 Scots living with HIV virus

More than 5,000 people are living with HIV in Scotland, official figures suggest.

A report published by Health Protection Scotland (HPS) said the majority of the 5,352 people diagnosed were men – 73% (3,916) – while 1,436 women were estimated to have the virus.

As of December 2018, 92% were attending HIV services for specialist treatment.

A total of 98% (4,799) of them were reported to be receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART).

People on ART take a combination of HIV medicines (called an HIV treatment regimen) every day to treat the infection.

’90-90-90′ target

About 94% (4,530) of people receiving ART are said to have achieved an undetectable viral load.

The figures show that Scotland has maintained the global UNAids “Fast Track” HIV 90-90-90 targets set for 2020 which were first met in September 2018.

These targets aim for 90% of HIV-infected individuals to be diagnosed and, with 90% of these receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) and 90% of these achieving an undetectable viral load.

HPS said that HIV treatment and care in Scotland was “optimal”.

But it said the main areas for public health action include reducing the number of HIV transmissions taking place, diagnosing infections early and to diagnose (or re-diagnose) early-infected individuals who come to Scotland.

Late diagnosis

HIV Scotland chief executive Nathan Sparling said: “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.”

He added: “A concerning statistic in the report 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 wide-spread public campaign could be the answer to combat it.”

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