PRESS RELEASE: Lower estimate of undiagnosed HIV infections in the Netherlands

17 November 2015

17 November 2015, AMSTERDAM. There are fewer people estimated to be living with HIV in the Netherlands than previously thought. According to the HIV Monitoring Report 2015, in 2014, there were around 22,100 HIV-positive individuals in the Netherlands, 2,700 of whom were as yet undiagnosed. This revised estimate is based on a new method for HIV infections in the Netherlands developed by Stichting HIV Monitoring in close collaboration with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).  The new model, published in the HIV Monitoring Report 2015, showed that 19,382 individuals (88%) have been diagnosed with HIV and 16,821 (87%) of those diagnosed were receiving combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) in 2014. Of those on cART, 15,463 (92%) had an adequately suppressed HIV infection.

Instead of using data from population surveys, which are less reliable in European countries because the epidemic is concentrated in specific risk groups, the new ECDC method works with routinely-collected data on newly-diagnosed HIV infections. The ECDC tool uses these readily available data to estimate the number of undiagnosed individuals. The new method to estimate HIV numbers is now being implemented by a number of European countries.

The latest figures bring the Netherlands close to achieving all three UNAIDS* 2020 treatment targets. These state that 90% of all individuals infected with HIV should know their HIV status, 90% of those diagnosed with HIV should be on sustained treatment, and 90% of those on treatment should have an undetectable viral load.

Encouragingly, the annual number of new HIV diagnoses is gradually decreasing to around 1000 per year. Moreover, HIV-positive individuals are also being diagnosed earlier and treated earlier in their infection. Nonetheless, too many (44%) continue to present with late-stage HIV infection, particularly among migrant populations. 

Peter Reiss, director of SHM, said: “Efforts to increase testing and detection rates, combined with both existing and novel tools for prevention, such as PrEP, and with immediate treatment regardless of immune status, should lead to an even more pronounced drop in the number of new diagnoses and the number of patients presenting late for care”.

Hepatitis C co-infection effectively treated with new drugs

The 2015 Monitoring Report also shows that the new direct-acting antiviral agents (DAAs) to treat infections with hepatitis C virus (HCV) are highly effective in people with HIV/HCV co-infection, with over 95% cure rates in those treated thus far. According to the report, this has led to fewer people still in need of effective HCV treatment, despite a rise in the number of new HCV diagnoses. Combined with established preventive measures, these new DAAs should also lead to a marked reduction in HCV transmission rates and thus, new HCV infections, among HIV-positive individuals.