New HIV infections in men who have sex with men (MSM) have increased in Switzerland since 2000 despite combination antiretroviral therapy (cART). The objectives of this mathematical modelling study were: to describe the dynamics of the HIV epidemic in MSM in Switzerland using national data; to explore the effects of hypothetical prevention scenarios; and to conduct a multivariate sensitivity analysis.
The model describes HIV transmission, progression and the effects of cART using differential equations. The model was fitted to Swiss HIV and AIDS surveillance data and twelve unknown parameters were estimated. Predicted numbers of diagnosed HIV infections and AIDS cases fitted the observed data well. By the end of 2010, an estimated 13.5% (95% CI 12.5, 14.6%) of all HIV-infected MSM were undiagnosed and accounted for 81.8% (95% CI 81.1, 82.4%) of new HIV infections. The transmission rate was at its lowest from 1995-1999, with a nadir of 46 incident HIV infections in 1999, but increased from 2000. The estimated number of new infections continued to increase to more than 250 in 2010, although the reproduction number was still below the epidemic threshold. Prevention scenarios included temporary reductions in risk behaviour, annual test and treat, and reduction in risk behaviour to levels observed earlier in the epidemic. These led to predicted reductions in new infections from 2 to 26% by 2020. Parameters related to disease progression and relative infectiousness at different HIV stages had the greatest influence on estimates of the net transmission rate.
The model outputs suggest that the increase in HIV transmission amongst MSM in Switzerland is the result of continuing risky sexual behaviour, particularly by those unaware of their infection status. Long term reductions in the incidence of HIV infection in MSM in Switzerland will require increased and sustained uptake of effective interventions.