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New HIV cases reinforce need for safe sex

Media Release
February 27, 2004

New HIV cases reinforce the need for safe sex practices

A record number of newly identified HIV cases in New Zealand last year has prompted a concerned reminder about safe sex from the Ministry of Health.

Dr Alison Roberts, the Ministry's Senior Advisor on Public Health Medicine says "188 new cases in 2003 reinforces the need for people to be engaging in safe sex practices, and for their whole lives."

Of the new reports, 71 were men who have sex with men (MSM), and 46 of these men thought they were infected in New Zealand. Their average age is 39.

Dr Roberts says "What we don't know is when these newly diagnosed people actually contracted the infection so we don't know how long they have had it nor why they decided to get tested. What that does tell us is that it's important safe sex messages reach a very broad range of people and we remind people regularly."

52 of the new cases were from heterosexual contact, and in most cases it was contracted overseas.

"This is a harsh wake-up call for all sexually active New Zealanders about the need to protect themselves and others. Hopefully the release of this information promotes more awareness about the possible consequences of having unprotected sex," Dr Roberts says.

The Ministry of Health is starting to plan for a safer sex media campaign for the Summer of 2004/05, and this follows the release of the HIV/AIDS Action Plan as part of the Ministry's Sexual and Reproductive Health Strategy in December 2003.

ENDS

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