PRESS RELEASE: Fewer HIV diagnoses in the Netherlands

18 November 2016

Latest figures released today by Stichting HIV Monitoring (SHM) confirm that the number of new HIV diagnoses is gradually decreasing. According to SHM’s 2016 HIV Monitoring Report, around a quarter of these new diagnoses comprise recent infections, indicating a higher frequency of testing and earlier entry into care.  Nonetheless, there remained around 900 new HIV diagnoses in 2015.

Figures from the HIV Monitoring Report, published online today, reveal that people are now starting combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) sooner after diagnosis. This is in line with recent guidelines that recommend starting cART  immediately after diagnosis, regardless of a person’s immune function. In 2015, almost everyone started treatment within 6 months of entering care, including 81% of those with a reasonably intact immune system (CD4* count ≥ 500 cells/mm3). Around half the individuals even started cART within one month of being diagnosed with HIV. This earlier start of treatment increases the likelihood that people living with HIV remain healthy and have a more or less normal lifespan.

Nonetheless, far too many people continue to present late for care. In 2015, 45% of all newly-diagnosed individuals presented with symptoms of AIDS or a CD4 count below 350 cells/mm3, indicative of a damaged immune system. People from certain migrant populations and individuals over 45 years of age were more likely to present late for care than men who have sex with men.

According to Peter Reiss, director of SHM, these recent developments are encouraging: “The figures suggest that the efforts to increase HIV testing and treatment and to achieve long-lasting viral suppression are taking effect. Earlier diagnosis and treatment of HIV also makes an important contribution to reducing the risk of further transmission of the infection. Nonetheless,  there remains plenty of work to be done to make sure even more people enter care at an early stage of infection. This is particularly important given that there are around 2,800 people in the Netherlands who do not yet know that they are infected with HIV.”