More than 5,000 people are estimated to be living with HIV in Scotland, new official figures reveal.

But the data also shows lower numbers of young people between the ages of 15 and 24 attending specialist services to receive treatment, at just over 75% compared to 90% and above for other age groups.

The report, from NHS Scotland, shows the total number of people diagnosed stood at 5,352 to 31st December 2018, with 73% being men.

A significant proportion of new diagnoses of HIV (27% in 2018) were described as being at a ‘late or very late stage’ of infection, emphasising the need for regular testing to help ensure early diagnosis of HIV cases.

Overall the total number of new diagnoses of people living with HIV in Scotland has fallen since 2009 with charities and the NHS keen to stress the importance of regular testing for those at risk of infection.

A highly effective preventative treatment called PrEP was made available to men who have sex with men (MSM) in Scotland back in July 2017.

Internationally, countries and individual cities are being encouraged to meet a target agreed by the UN called ’90-90-90′ requiring the majority of HIV cases to be diagnosed and on effective treatment by 2030.

Scotland has already achieved the UNAIDS ’90-90-90′ target after the publication of the latest statistics on HIV treatment.

The target aims to achieve 90% of people living with HIV knowing their status, 90% of those that know their status being on anti-retroviral drugs, and 90% of those on treatment having an undetectable viral load and being unable to pass on the virus.

In addition to the 90-90-90 target, the Paris Agreement commits cities to reduce HIV-related stigma to zero, with Glasgow signing up to be a ‘Fast track city’ and now joined by Aberdeen recently.

Over 270 cities worldwide have committed to ending their local HIV epidemic by 2030 and Scotland’s remaining cities of Edinburgh, Dundee, Stirling, Perth and Inverness are being encouraged to get onboard.

Nathan Sparling with councillors in Aberdeen

Chief executive of HIV Scotland, Nathan Sparling, said:

“It’s great news that Aberdeen will be Scotland’s second city committed to ending the HIV epidemic by 2030 and another step towards our goal to make Scotland the first country in the world where all of our cities are signed up to this global initiative.”

“Ending HIV-related stigma is the most important part of the initiative. Stigma contributes to high rates of late diagnoses, which in turn impacts on the health of people living with HIV. With swift access to testing and treatment, people living with HIV live long, healthy lives and cannot pass the virus on to others.”

A new drug to treat HIV has also been approved for use by the Scottish Medicines Consortium which it’s hoped will reduce costs for the NHS and improve treatment for people living with the condition.

Scotland is the only part of the UK to approve the use of Dovato, a 2-drug treatment in a single, once a day, pill which is now available for those aged 12 years and above.

Dr Rak Nandwani, Chair of the Scottish HIV Clinical Leads said:

“Owing to treatment advances, people living with HIV are healthier and living longer than ever before. Individuals with undetectable viral load cannot pass it on. I’m pleased that Scotland continues to lead the way in the UK in terms of providing new options to both prevent and treat HIV.”

“The SMC decision for Dovato offers a new type of treatment options with fewer agents compared to the current standard of taking a daily three drug regimen. Dovato also has the potential to offer further cost savings to NHS Scotland, in addition to the large savings which we have managed to achieve in recent years.”

For more information on services for those living with HIV, contact the following organisations:

HIV Scotland

Waverley Care

THT Scotland

Our Positive Voice (Grampian)

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