Sciensano sees slight uptick in HIV diagnoses in 2021

The number of HIV diagnoses thus increased by 4.3% in 2021, after the significant drop in 2020 – and the drop from 940 to 749 diagnoses -, strongly linked to the impact of the Covid-19 epidemic and the containment measures, reveals Sciensano on Tuesday. The Institute of Public Health, however, indicates that the general trend over the past decade remains downward.

In total, 48% of newly recorded HIV infections in 2021 were diagnosed in men who have sex with men and 48% in heterosexuals. Intravenous drug use has been reported for 2% of HIV diagnoses and perinatal transmission for 1%.

If “the number of new HIV diagnoses has increased among people of Belgian nationality, both among men who have sex with other men and among heterosexual men and women”, the institute notes “a decrease or stabilization of the number of diagnoses among non-Belgians”.

In 2021, Sciensano estimated the number of people living with HIV in Belgium at 19,177. Of these people living with HIV, 94% were diagnosed, of these, 89% were on antiretroviral treatment and of these, 97% had a suppressed viral load, i.e. 81% of all people living with HIV. HIV, says the institute.

“However, approximately one in five people living with HIV would have an unsuppressed viral load and would therefore be at risk of HIV transmission. This is mainly linked to a delay in diagnosis or an interruption of medical care for HIV,” notes the Institute of Public Health.

Both Sciensano and the AIDS Prevention Platform insist on the need, despite the progress made in recent years, to make further progress with regard to early diagnosis and the effective use of the range of prevention strategies, recalling that the HIV in Belgium is not yet under control.

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