Even though HIV diagnoses in San Francisco showed an increase from 2020 to 2021 — possibly due to changes in testing due to COVID-19 — there have also been some progress when it comes to the disease.
For the first time ever, gay and bisexual men who don’t inject drugs accounted for less than half of new HIV cases in the City by the Bay, according to a new report from the Department of Public Health and reported on by the Bay Area Reporter. Men who have sex with men (MSM) who don’t inject drugs made up 49 percent of new HIV cases in 2021.
Another incredible finding from the epidemiology report showed that no children have been diagnosed in San Francisco since 2012. The report doesn’t specify whether this achievement came about because of increased testing, improved treatment, or another reason.
Still, HIV cases rose 16 percent between 2020 (138) and 2021 (160), but is lower than the 173 new cases in 2019. The numbers are likely skewed because such little HIV testing took place in 2020, when COVID was raging and the city was on lockdown for much of the year.
The entire city of San Francisco — California’s fourth-largest city — has over 15,000 residents living with HIV, 11 percent of all people living with HIV in America’s most populous state. The group is aging too; 73 percent of HIV-positive people in San Francisco are now 50 or older.
The report found some groups continue to suffer disproportionately from HIV. Latino individuals make up the largest share of new HIV cases in the city, at 38 percent. Both Latino and Black San Franciscans have high rates of HIV relative to their share of the city’s population.
The city’s unhoused population made up 24 percent of new diagnoses in 2021, the highest ever recorded number for this community. Injectable drug users saw their rates of HIV infection rise from 21 percent in 2020 to 27 percent. The latter findings parallel a report from the Centers for Disease Control that showed significant increases in overdose deaths in the early months of 2021.
Still, the report indicates a remarkable recovery in testing, treatment, and PrEP access from the devastation of 2020.
"We're doing pretty well in terms of getting people onto antiretrovirals quickly — that's stayed pretty stable or is improving, but we're still not seeing quite as good a viral suppression rate," Dr. Susan Buchbinder, director of the Department of Public Health’s Bridge HIV program, told the Reporter.