Lockdown helps eradication battle against other diseases too
Having already lasted seven weeks, the lockdown also mitigates one of the biggest challenges usually facing sexual health clinicians: it can take up to a month from potential exposure to HIV for current tests to return a definitive result. “If nobody has had sex which has put them at an HIV risk for at least four weeks,” says McOwan, “there will be nobody in this blindspot who might otherwise be missed.”
When taking regular treatment, people who are HIV positive have an undetectable viral load and therefore cannot pass on the infection. New HIV infections had already been dropping nationally, in part because the NHS is increasing public access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a drug taken by HIV-negative people before and after sex that reduces the risk of getting HIV. In 2012, there were an estimated 2,800 new HIV diagnoses among men who have sex with men in the UK. In 2018 the figure was down to 800, a 71% fall.
“If we can now find the remaining people with HIV through testing and put them on treatment,” says McOwan, “we could remove anyone who is infectious from the population with long-lasting effects. We won’t get this two-month window of no sex again.”https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/may/13/covid-19-crisis-raises-hopes-of-end-to-uk-transmission-of-hiv