The Philadelphia Department of Public Health (PDPH) reports promising reductions in new diagnoses of HIV. The number of newly diagnosed persons decreased 14.3% from 495 diagnoses in 2017 to 424 new diagnoses in 2018 with a notable decline of 35.8% in Black men who have sex with men (MSM); the City has experienced steady declines in new HIV diagnoses since the mid-2000s consistent with national trends.
To build on this progress, Philadelphia will embark in new efforts to end the HIV epidemic with goals to reduce the number of new HIV infections by 75% in 5 years and by at least 90% in 10 years. These efforts, part of the federal initiative End the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America, will continue to engage communities impacted by HIV, develop a local plan to end the HIV epidemic, and fund new and expanded initiatives to reach these ambitious goals.
Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said, “This report marks the enormous progress we have made in combatting the HIV epidemic in Philadelphia. We still have much work to do, particularly in preventing the spread of HIV among people who inject drugs, but ending the epidemic is now a realistic goal.”
Today’s release of the 2018 HIV Surveillance Report contains data reported through June 30, 2019. There are 19,011 persons living with HIV in Philadelphia and an estimated additional 2,019 persons who have HIV but are unaware of their status. Despite this progress towards ending the HIV epidemic, the PDPH identified an outbreak of HIV in persons who inject drugs (PWID). The number of PWID newly diagnosed with HIV had been declining since the implementation of syringe exchange in Philadelphia in 1992. In 2018, there were 71 newly diagnosed cases of HIV among PWID (including MSM/PWID) which represents a 115% increase from 33 cases reported in 2016.
The report also highlights that there are no disparities in viral suppression among Black or Hispanic people living with HIV compared to those who are white. The report continues to provide data on HIV among transgender populations. The PDPH has been on the forefront of national conversations around data reporting that is inclusive of transgender persons.
Mary Evelyn Torres, AIDS Activities Coordinating Office Program Implementation Administrator said, “Although we have seen noticeable declines in new HIV diagnoses, we must continue to address the needs of African American and Latinx gay and bisexual men because they are disproportionately impacted by HIV. We must also guarantee access to culturally responsive and gender affirming services so that impacted communities can take advantage of highly effective HIV prevention and treatment options that allow people to live long, full lives.”
The Philadelphia Department of Public Health supports an expansive range of HIV care and prevention services across the City. Efforts include:
- promoting routine HIV testing in medical care, supporting a robust network of community-based HIV testing providers, and the distribution of at-home HIV test kits;
- expanding access to key HIV prevention strategies like PrEP (a once a day pill that prevents HIV), syringe exchange, and condom distribution;
- and providing extensive HIV care and treatment services for people living with HIV regardless of ability to pay or immigration status.
HIV treatment and prevention has never been better: HIV negative persons who take daily PrEP reduce their risk of getting HIV by 99%; persons who are living with HIV who take daily HIV medicine and get and keep an undetectable viral load have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to their HIV-negative sexual partners. In 2019, PDPH launched two successful health marketing campaigns Philly, Keep on Loving and Test, Love Repeat, respectively focused on promoting PrEP and HIV testing. Information around HIV testing, prevention services and treatment can be found on PhillyKeepOnLoving.com or through the Health Information Helpline, 215-985-2437.
AIDS Activities Coordinating Office Director, Coleman Terrell said “today’s news indicates the progress our collective efforts have made in ending the HIV epidemic in Philadelphia and areas which still challenge us. We cannot rest; we must continue our work and to think innovatively about ensuring access to HIV care and prevention in Philadelphia for everyone.”