According to updated data published last month on the UK’s HIV epidemic, after a decade the number of new cases of the infection among heterosexuals is again higher than among gays and bisexuals.
This information has gone viral and has caused panic in part of the heterosexual population that inhabits the planet. And from what I saw circulating on the internet, I understood that it was necessary to better understand the news so as not to trigger an avalanche of misinformation.
Contrary to what many have understood, the news is good and not bad. It should be understood that we are talking here about the proportion of newly diagnosed cases, so it is not an explosion of cases among straight men, but a significant decrease in cases among gay and bisexual men.
The UK has an HIV epidemic similar to that of Brazil, concentrated in a few specific population groups, such as gay and bisexual men. Over the past decade, with the emergence of new prevention knowledge and technologies, it is precisely these groups that have been prioritized for its implementation.
Examples of this are both the use of HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and the dissemination of knowledge that a person on antiretroviral therapy with an undetectable HIV viral load is not at risk of transmitting their virus to others. through sexual contact, even when having sex without a condom.
The power of the combination of these two prevention methods, coupled with the increased access to routine HIV testing for gay and bisexual men, has reduced the number of newly diagnosed HIV cases in this population by 70 UK between 2014 and 2020. %, especially among those with better access to healthcare, such as white men.
At the same time, the heterosexual population around the world tends to pay less attention to the HIV epidemic because they think it’s only a problem for gays, trans people and sex workers. . This phenomenon is also occurring in the UK, where during the covid-19 pandemic there was a much greater reduction in the number of HIV tests carried out among heterosexuals (33%) than among gays and bisexuals (7 %).
HIV cases are decreasing among gay and bisexual men because they have engaged in a routine of health and prevention.
So the headline news should be celebrated, not dreaded. This means that all efforts to bring prevention, diagnostic and treatment technologies to those most affected by the HIV epidemic achieve their incidence reduction goals. But we must warn that these actions cannot be limited to white gay and bisexual men, as anyone who is sexually active can be vulnerable to HIV.
In Brazil, we are still at an earlier stage of this same movement. According to the latest HIV epidemiological bulletin from the Ministry of Health, between 2007 and 2021, 52.1% of reported cases of HIV infection among men were homosexual and bisexual, while 31% were heterosexual. However, knowing that since 2018, 85% of people who have started PrEP via SUS so far are gay men, we can conclude that we will soon have a similar drop here as in the UK.
For now, the clinical protocol that regulates the provision of PrEP in Brazil still prioritizes the indication of the prevention method for gay and bisexual men, transgender people, sex workers and members of serodiscordant couples. But, given what happened in the UK, you might think it’s time to reevaluate this restriction on the use of PrEP here in Brazil.
Health should reach everyone, regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation. And tackling inequities in access is part of the job of governments and public health officials.
Source: Viva Bem (UOL) / Chronicle Rico Vasconcelos