The number of new cases of HIV in the Dutch capital, Amsterdam, has fallen by 95 per cent since 2010.
The decline is largely due to the preventive pill, Prep (pre-exposure prophylaxis), according to figures from the Dutch Aids Foundation.
The figures show there were nine new cases of HIV in the city last year, compared with 128 in 2019 and 66 in 2021, a reduction which campaigners say is rapidly “trending towards zero”.
“This is a historic moment” said the foundation’s director, Mark Vermeulen. “Amsterdam is showing it is possible to stop HIV. It is fantastic news, especially since we’ve already met the UN’s 2030 goals for combating Aids.”
The regional health authority for Amsterdam agreed, saying that as well as the preventive success of Prep, doctors were also becoming “faster at finding acute infections and treating them immediately”.
“Amsterdam aims to register no new HIV infections – zero – by 2026″, the authority said. “That’s now our goal.”
In 2019, the Dutch government began a five-year national funding programme for Prep, which is recommended by the Centres for Disease Control as “highly effective”, and which is taken in combination with other antiretroviral treatments.
However, what appears to have made the dramatic difference in Amsterdam is that the city council made substantial extra funding available for people believed to have a higher risk of infection, including some sex workers.
Caretaker Dutch health minister, Ernst Kuipers, responded to the Amsterdam figures by pledging to make the Amsterdam template of most-at-risk groups part of the nationwide programme.
He also promised to allocate an additional €1 million to the nationwide programme from 2025, although this, he warned, would increase the monthly contribution from €7.50 to around €30 per individual to ensure that as many patients as possible benefited.
Globally, 39 million people were living with HIV, the virus that causes Aids, during 2022. Fifty-three per cent of those were women and girls.
Some 1.3 million people became newly infected the same year, and about 630,000 people died of Aids-related illnesses.
Sub-Saharan Africa was the worst affected, particularly South Africa, Lesotho and Eswatini in southern Africa, the last of which had an infection rate of almost 26 per cent of the population.
And although those figures remain a source of serious concern, they represent a 38 per cent decline since 2010 and a 58 per cent decline since the peak of infections in 1995, according to US Government statistics.
Even so, in stark contrast to the substantially improving picture in the Netherlands – where more than 24,000 people are still living with HIV, which is no longer fatal given advances in treatment – more than 40 countries reported an increase to some degree in new HIV cases last year.