SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – There was a 16% increase in new HIV diagnoses in San Francisco in 2021 compared to the previous year, according to the city’s department of public health.

There were 160 diagnoses of human immunodeficiency virus in 2021 compared to 131 in 2020. However, both numbers are lower than 2019’s 173 new diagnoses.

A DPH press release states it is unclear why the number of new diagnoses is rising.

“It is unclear whether the rise in diagnoses from 2020 is a result of an actual rise in transmission, or if more people accessed testing as the COVID-19 pandemic subsided and the lower number in 2020 was an underestimate of new infections in that year,” the press release states.

HIV is the cause of AIDS, acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Eighty-seven San Franciscans were diagnosed with AIDS in 2021, compared to 86 in 2020 and 111 in 2019. The number is significantly down from 1995 (a year with 1,548 AIDS diagnoses), when treatments to prevent HIV from progressing to AIDS started to be introduced

DPH stated that “while deaths due to HIV-related causes have continued to decline, for the first time, accidental deaths, which include drug overdoses, surpassed non-AIDS cancers as the second most frequent underlying cause of death in 2017-2020.”

The number of deaths has not been calculated for 2021, but 72 San Franciscans died in 2020 from HIV-related causes. 2019 saw 70 deaths, 2018 saw 73 and 2017 saw 83.

The percentage of drug overdoses among people with HIV increased from 11.1% in the years 2009-2012, to 15% in the years 2017-2020.

Ninety-four percent of those newly diagnosed with HIV entered care within one month, DPH continued.

The report also noted that HIV diagnoses disproportionately affect the Black and Latino communities.

“We must acknowledge that people living with HIV can face considerable structural barriers to care and behavioral health challenges that go beyond the immediate medical impacts of the disease,” stated Health Officer Dr. Susan Philip. “Our approach with community partners must ensure a ‘whole person’ approach that includes wraparound supports to address the many needs of a person.”

KRON ON is streaming live

Getting to Zero, a collaborative effort of city departments and local nonprofits and service providers, is also working on helping tackle the monkeypox outbreak, co-chair Dr. Susan Buchbinder stated. Monkeypox also disproportionately impacts gay and bisexual men.

“Getting to Zero, San Francisco, a collaborative consortium of over 300 members, relies heavily on these annual reports to direct our efforts to address disparities in HIV diagnosis and outcomes,” Buchbinder stated. “We are working closely with our partners to speed up innovative strategies, including long acting antiretrovirals, for communities in greatest need of prevention and treatment. Getting to Zero launched a committee to address overdose prevention and the needs of unstably housed persons. We have also been addressing the MPX outbreak and are working to ensure that people living with HIV have access to information and services for MPX prevention and treatment.”