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Highest ever number of new HIV cases in 2003

PRESS RELEASE: EMBARGOED UNTIL MIDNIGHT 26/2/04

NZ sees highest ever number of new HIV cases in 2003.

“Although NZAF has been warning about this increase, the total of 188 more people living with HIV is still very shocking” said Rachael Le Mesurier, Executive Director of the AIDS Foundation.

The 188 new cases of HIV reported in 2003 exceeds 1985 as the highest year ever in the epidemic in NZ. There have been increases in all categories with the largest group being men who have sex with men (MSM). This has leapt from a full total of 67 in 2002 to 93 in 2003 – a 39% increase.

“Most know the message about condoms but some are balancing that against the myths about living with HIV drugs. The only winner in this dangerous lottery is HIV/AIDS”.

As with all data on human behaviour there is not one simple answer for this increase. However as the increase is being seen in many developed countries and is most evident amongst MSM, the link could well be influenced by the introduction of successful HIV treatments in the late 1990s.

Complacency and misinformation about HIV drugs has probably resulted in some MSM assuming that stopping using condoms is OK as living a normal life on HIV drugs is a viable option.

This is just not true. Living with a regime of up to 24 pills a day, unpleasant side effects, being too exhausted or too ill to work is not a viable option compared with the good health of being HIV negative. Also with over 40 or more people facing AIDS today due to the lack of access to new HIV drugs it is clearly a myth that HIV drugs will always keep people alive and well in NZ.

Taking pills is not the answer to keeping in the best health, as many living with diabetes and life threatening obesity know.

“HIV drugs merely delay the onset of AIDS and AIDS stills means a life cut short. Condoms work and safe sex is still the only way to beat the rapidly changing threat of the virus.”

“The New Zealand AIDS Foundation is strongly urging the friends, family and partners of gay and bisexual men to support their re-commitment to safe sex after the release of these alarming statistics today.”

ENDS

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