PRESS RELEASE: HIV diagnoses continue to decline in the Netherlands

17 November 2017

Latest figures released today by Stichting HIV Monitoring (SHM) confirm a continued, albeit moderate, decline in the annual number of new HIV diagnoses in the Netherlands. In 2016 there were around 820 new HIV diagnoses.

The figures, published online today, also reveal a continuing trend for HIV-positive people, particularly men who have sex with men (MSM), to be diagnosed at an earlier stage of infection, reflecting an increase in testing. This is particularly evident in Amsterdam, where MSM are now more frequently being diagnosed earlier in their HIV infection than those in the rest of the country. This may be an early indicator of a beneficial impact of the H-TEAM initiative in the city. In Amsterdam, at the time of diagnosis, 36% of MSM had evidence of a recent infection compared with 22% in the rest of the country, and 77% had a more intact immune system (CD4 count above 350 cells/mm3) compared with 58% outside Amsterdam.

Despite these encouraging figures for MSM, many people still present late for care, i.e. with an already impaired immune system (CD4 count below 350 cells/mm3 ) or even AIDS; in 2016, this was the case for 37% of MSM, 63% of other men and 43% of women. 

In 2016, the majority of individuals started treatment within weeks to a few months of diagnosis. This is in line with current universal guidelines recommending immediate start of treatment regardless of the condition of the immune system at the time of diagnosis

Professor Peter Reiss, director of Stichting HIV Monitoring says: “The continued trend of fewer new diagnoses, earlier diagnosis, and earlier start of treatment is encouraging. However, there is no room for complacency given the still unacceptably high number of people who enter care with a weakened immune system. Additional efforts, tailored to each communities’ needs, are required to enhance testing, early diagnosis and treatment of HIV. Combined with other tailored modes of prevention, such as the HIV prevention pill PrEP, this is the only way forward to further reduce the number of new HIV infections”.