Background: To manage the HIV epidemic among men who have sex with men (MSM) in England, treatment as prevention strategies based on test and treat were strengthened between 2011 and 2015, and supplemented from 2015 by scale-up of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). We examined the effect of these interventions on HIV incidence and investigated whether internationally agreed targets for HIV control and elimination of HIV transmission by 2030 might be within reach among MSM in England.
Methods: We used a novel, age-stratified, CD4-staged Bayesian back-calculation model to estimate HIV incidence and undiagnosed infections among adult MSM (age ≥15 years) during the 10-year period between 2009 and 2018. The model used data on HIV and AIDS diagnoses routinely collected via the national HIV and AIDS Reporting System in England, and knowledge on the progression of HIV through CD4-defined disease stages. Estimated incidence trends were extrapolated, assuming a constant MSM population from 2018 onwards, to quantify the likelihood of achieving elimination of HIV transmission, defined as less than one newly aquired infection per 10 000 MSM per year, by 2030.
Findings: The peak in HIV incidence in MSM in England was estimated with 80% certainty to have occurred in 2012 or 2013, at least 1 year before the observed peak in new diagnoses in 2014. Results indicated a steep decrease in the annual number of new infections among MSM, from 2770 (95% credible interval 2490–3040) in 2013 to 1740 (1500–2010) in 2015, followed by a steadier decrease from 2016, down to 854 (441–1540) infections in 2018. A decline in new infections was consistently estimated in all age groups, and was particularly marked in MSM aged 25–34 years, and slowest in those aged 45 years or older. Similar trends were estimated in the number of undiagnosed infections, with the greatest decrease after 2013 in the 25–34 years age group. Under extrapolation assumptions, we calculated a 40% probability of achieving the defined target elimination threshold by 2030. Interpretation: The sharp decrease in HIV incidence, estimated to have begun before the scale up of PrEP, indicates the success of strengthening treatment as prevention measures among MSM in England. To achieve the 2030 elimination threshold, targeted policies might be required to reach those aged 45 years or older, in whom incidence is decreasing at the slowest rate.