Study shows that consistent condom use has stopped over 80,000 new HIV infections among gay men.

Research by the HPA and UCL published in PLOS ONE will show that consistent condom use by gay men has stopped over 80,000 new HIV infections between 2000 and 2010. The research provides an unprecedented insight into how HIV prevention measures have shaped the epidemic and quantifies the direct impact of condom use by gay men for the first time.

The research also adds to a scientific evidence base which underlines the need for investment in targeted campaigns focusing on three pillars of HIV prevention: promoting safer sex and condom use, encouraging at-risk communities to test regularly for the virus and early use of anti-HIV drug therapy.

Sir Nick Partridge, Chief Executive of Terrence Higgins Trust, said:

“This research provides concrete evidence of the vital role which condom use by gay men has had in containing the spread of HIV in the UK. Without it, there would have been 80,000 more gay men with HIV between 2000 and 2010. The study also confirms the impact of the combined HIV prevention strategy, spearheaded by Terrence Higgins Trust, of promoting condom use and safer sex, increasing regular HIV testing and encouraging the earlier use of anti-HIV drug therapy for people with diagnosed HIV, campaigns which have all contributed to reducing transmission over the past 10 years. At a time when funding for local HIV prevention programmes is under threat, this only reinforces the important role which local authorities can and must play in funding local HIV prevention as they inherit responsibility for public health in April.

“Condoms remain the best protection against HIV. But this study also tells us that 82% of transmissions among gay men in 2010 came from people who were unaware they had the virus. This highlights the importance of regular testing to drive down the rate of undiagnosed HIV, which continues to fuel the epidemic among gay men.”

In 2012 Terrence Higgins Trust was awarded a three-year contract from the Department of Health to lead a new partnership of organisations (called HIV Prevention England) in delivering HIV prevention work in England among gay men and Africans. In November this partnership launched England’s first ever National HIV Testing Week, which saw clinical and community organisations across England work together on an unprecedented scale to drive down rates of undiagnosed HIV.

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The charity will build on this work in late March, when it will launch major new HIV prevention campaigns targeted specifically at gay men and Africans living in the England.