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New HIV Diagnoses in Washington are lowest in decades, but bacterial STDs on the rise

On the eve of World AIDS Day, news out of UW Medicine and UW’s Department of Global Health show that the number of new HIV diagnoses in King County and Washington State are at their lowest levels in decades. Levels of HIV diagnoses haven’t been this low in Washington since 1985, or this low in King County since 1998.

New data from the “2017 Annual Epidemiology Report on HIV/AIDS” shows that between 2007 and 2016, HIV diagnoses per 100,000 people declined by 25 percent statewide, and declined by 40 percent in King County.

Joanne Stekler, an HIV/AIDS physician at UW Medicine says these rates represent great progress in our state, especially in King County where the population is rapidly increasing.

“Much of the progress in declining infections has stemmed from high rates of HIV testing, viral suppression, and from preventive use of medication to prevent HIV, suggested Matt Golden, a University of Washington professor of medicine and the HIV/STD program director for Public Health – Seattle & King County.”

In 2015, King County became the first county in the U.S. to achieve the 90-90-90 objective put forth by the World Health Organization to combat the AIDS epidemic. 90-90-90 refers to the goal of 90 percent of all people infected with HIV know their status, 90 percent are receiving treatment, and 90 percent of people on antiretroviral medications are virally suppressed. The programs put forth to meet these objectives have helped to improve the detection, prevention, and suppression of HIV in the area.

However, while new HIV diagnoses have drastically decreased, other sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia have risen across the US and in King County.

To continue this decrease in HIV diagnoses and turn the tide on other STDs, Golden recommends testing and treating individuals quickly, supporting annual STD screenings, and making sure there is adequate funding to provide all individuals with the detection and treatment options they may need.

Update: This article has been updated.  An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that new HIV diagnoses are at their lowest levels since 1985 in King County and 1998 in Washington State.