In the report over 2011 Stichting HIV Monitoring (SHM) signals that the yearly increase of new HIV infections amongst men that have sex with men (MSM) has halted in the period 2009 and 2010. Since 1998 the number of new cases amongst MSM increased annually till over 850 in 2008.
In 2009 and 2010 an estimate of 750 new cases were registered.
No further increase of new infections
The majority of newly diagnosed HIV-infections in Holland are amongst MSM. The figures on new cases amongst MSM are a strong indication on the curve of the HIV-epidemic in The Netherlands. Over 2008 the SHM estimated the number of new infections amongst MSM overall to be almost 850, comparable to the peak of the epidemic in the early eighties.
This year the SHM reports no further increase in the number of annual new HIV diagnoses amongst MSM and estimates that over 2009 and 2010 the average will amount to 750 per year. The number of annual newly registered diagnoses of HIV amongst straight people remains stable at around 300.
The results of the Schorer Monitor 2011, the annual survey on health, wellbeing and sexuality amongst MSM, point in the same direction. Schorer reports a stabilization of risky behavior: 36% of the MSM had unprotected anal sex in the last six months. This is the same as in 2010 while over previous years the percentage went up gradually.
Improvement in testing behavior
There also seems to be an improvement in testing behavior amongst MSM. According to Schorer the percentage of MSM that was ever tested on HIV increased over 2011 to 78%. MSM under 26 years of age have been tested more often than elderly MSM so their infections are detected in an earlier stage. SHM reports that almost half of the youngsters that test positively have a recent HIV-infection while this is the case in only a quarter of the positive tests amongst men over 55 years of age.
The improvement in testing behavior means that infections are treated in an earlier stage and effective treatment is a substantial contribution to bringing the spreading of HIV to a halt.
Frank de Wolf, Director of SHM, says: ‘This is good news. It seems that we’re successful in testing and treating. But HIV is a lifelong infection and there are still a lot of people getting infected every year. You can’t say we’ve got the epidemic under control. It’s a fragile balance. A little increase in risky behavior or a slight lapse in testing behavior can tip the balance, or the spread of a resistant virus.’
Anti-HIV medication resistance is a concern
About 10% of the patients are infected with a type of HIV that’s resistant to at least one anti-HIV medication type. The percentage could even be much higher because resistance is not always tested. Resistance has two main consequences: 1) treatment gets more complicated as there are only a few combinations possible and 2) the course of the epidemic can change when more people get infected with a resistant type of HIV-virus. SHM will closely monitor the developments around resistance and the course of the epidemic.