Parool: Number of new HIV infections in Amsterdam has halved in 5 years

Faster HIV tests, treatment in an earlier stage of the infection and new campaigns. Amsterdam is on its way to wipe out the virus for good.

The yearly number of new HIV diagnoses has halved in five years’ time to 162 in 2015. That is remarkable, given the fact that for years the number of people that were diagnosed with an HIV infection fluctuated between 300 and 360 per year. The figures of the HIV Monitoring Foundation show that the decrease can be seen on a national level as well.

Combination of factors

There hasn’t been one magical moment at which the drastic decrease of new HIV diagnoses was set in motion, says Peter Reiss, director of the HIV Monitoring Foundation and longtime HIV specialist. “It’s a combination of factors.”

He does suspect that gains are achieved due to a new approach that entails people starting treatment directly after their diagnosis. “This proves to be not only good for the prognosis of the individual, but also minimalizes the chance of the infection being transmitted.”

Since 2014, Amsterdam organizations like the GGD and hospitals have been working together in the H-TEAM, with the goal of eliminating HIV infections.

GGD Amsterdam is doing a trial in which men who have sex with men are given the anti-HIV drug PrEP; campaigns inform people on the symptoms of HIV and general practitioners are educated on how to encourage people to openly talk about HIV.

Earlier detection

“But I cannot say that we already have been seeing the results of that in 2015. Maybe just in the tail end,” says Reiss, who is also project leader of the H-TEAM.

Reiss thinks it is too early to start applauding. “We are not there yet. Figures also show that 45 per cent of people diagnosed with HIV still arrives at the GP too late, with a severely disrupted immune system or even AIDS.”

“If you want to treat people shortly after the infection, that number has to go down. Earlier detection and prevention of new infections, that is what our efforts are directed at now.”

Read the full article on the website of Het Parool (Dutch only).

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