Publication date: Aug 31, 2023
New HIV diagnoses in Italy decreased drastically in 2020 due to COVID-19 related effects: 50% fewer diagnoses were reported by the National HIV Surveillance System. COVID-19 pandemic impact on HIV surveillance is unclear. We estimated the expected number of new HIV diagnoses in 2020 in order to isolate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We analyzed 29 697 new HIV infections diagnosed from 2012 to 2020, reported to the National HIV Surveillance System. We assessed temporal trends of new HIV diagnoses applying negative binomial mixed effects models. We estimated the COVID-19 impact as the difference between the model-estimated slopes from 2012 to 2019 and the change reported in the diagnoses. The expected number of new HIV diagnoses in 2020 was also estimated and compared with the reported count. Based on the historical trend, we expected a 15% (95% CI: 5-25%) decline of new HIV diagnoses in 2020. We reported, however, a 49% decrease, yielding to a 34% net decrease in the number of new diagnoses. The strongest impact was estimated in northern regions (-40%) and MSM (-38%). We estimated 761 (95% prediction interval: 350-1277) missed diagnoses during 2020, the majority of them occurring in the North (465 cases), among MSM (416) and heterosexual males (217). In 2020, when excluding 15% decrease of new diagnoses attributable to the expected reduction, an additional 34% decrease was observed, representing a large decline in new HIV diagnoses associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.