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Decline in HIV cases in Norway in 2015

221 new cases of HIV were diagnosed in Norway in 2015, a decline from 249 cases in 2014. The main decline is among men who have sex with men (MSM), according to a new report from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. There is little change in the HIV situation among the other groups compared with 2014.

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Illustrasjonsfoto: Colourbox.com

“Condom use, early diagnosis and effective treatment are still the most important preventive measures”, says Øivind Nilsen, senior adviser at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

Lowest for 10 years

In 2015, the number of reported HIV cases was the lowest for 10 years. Of the 221 HIV cases reported, there were 145 men and 76 women. Overall, there are now 5843 people diagnosed as HIV positive in Norway, 3948 males and 1895 females. The report also shows that: 

  • There is a marked decrease in newly diagnosed reported HIV cases among MSM. 
  • The increase in the number of asylum seekers in 2015 has not led to an increase in the total number of reported HIV cases compared with previous years. 111 of the 221 cases that were reported in 2015 were immigrants infected before arrival in Norway. 
  • The number of men infected heterosexually abroad, especially in Thailand, shows no signs of declining. 
  • Among women born in Norway, adolescents and injecting drug users there is still a stable, low HIV prevalence.

 

Table 1. HIV infection reported to the Norwegian Surveillance System for Communicable Diseases (MSIS) 1984-2015 by year of diagnosis and transmission route

Transmission route

Before 2011

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

Totalt

%

 Heterosexual

 2386

155

142

124

130

138

3075

52.6

  - infected while living in Norway

 748

46

46

31

47

52

970

 

  - infected before arrival in Norway(migrants)

 1638

109

96

93

83

86

2105

 

 Men who have sex with men

 1454

97

76

98

107

70

1902

32.6

 Injecting drug use

 575

10

11

8

7

8

619

10.6

 Via blood / blood products

 47

0

0

0

1

0

48

0.8

 From mother to child

 64

4

7

1

3

2

81

1.4

 Other / Unknown

 103

2

6

3

1

3

118

2.0

 Total

 4629

268

242

234

249

221

5843

100.0

Infection among MSM

In 2015, there were 70 new HIV cases among MSM. This is a significant decline from the 107 HIV-positive MSM diagnosed in 2014. The decline is seen among both men born in Norway and migrants. Among Norwegian-born MSM, the HIV figures are nearly halved since 2011. The proportion of HIV-positive MSM with migrant backgrounds has increased in recent years and accounts for about half of the reported cases among MSM. Of those who were diagnosed in 2015 in this group, 54 per cent were infected in Norway.

It is too early to say whether the decline is the beginning of a more sustained trend of reduced HIV transmission among MSM. Previously, a decrease in reported HIV cases was often observed among MSM after a year with high HIV figures in this group.

"There is no evidence that the decline is due to reduced risk behaviour. The number of cases of gonorrhoea among MSM continued to increase in 2015, and the incidence of syphilis remained at a persistently high level, suggesting that there is still a lot of unsafe sex among groups of MSM, both within Norway and on trips abroad," says Nilsen.

"The prioritised prevention strategy among MSM in recent years, with increased HIV testing in high-risk environments and rapid treatment of infected people, may have caused the effect," continues Nilsen.

Infection among heterosexuals

Among heterosexually-infected people living in Norway, the HIV figures increased in both 2014 and 2015. Norwegian men who have unprotected sex abroad still predominate in this group. Infection in Thailand alone represents half of all heterosexual HIV transmission among Norwegian men. The prevalence of HIV among Norwegian women remains low and is characterised as before by infection from their regular partners in Norway.

In 2015, there were 86 new cases of HIV among people who came to Norway as asylum seekers or as part of family reunification, 60 women and 26 men, compared to 83 cases in 2014. As before, the majority of this group came from Africa, particularly from countries in the Horn of Africa and Nigeria. From Asia the majority are Thai women.

Although migrants from areas with high prevalence of HIV continue to make up the biggest HIV group in Norway together with MSM, the number of annual new HIV cases has declined in recent years, compared to the peak in 2008. 

HIV cases 1984-2015