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New cases of HIV among MSM remain high

New cases of HIV among MSM remain high

The high rates of HIV among men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM) in New Zealand in 2003 look set to continue the New Zealand AIDS Foundation warned today.

The AIDS Epidemiology Group has reported that in the first 6 months of 2004, 35 MSM were newly diagnosed with HIV compared with 33 in the same period last year. In total, 2003 recorded one of the highest numbers of new HIV infections among MSM (71) since the epidemic began in New Zealand*. (*These figures are of new diagnoses of HIV infection through the standard HIV antibody blood test, they do not include new cases notified via viral load testing).

NZAF Executive Director Rachael Le Mesurier said that the figures for the second quarter (April to June inclusive) of 2004 also indicate that much of the new HIV diagnoses are a result of recent unsafe sexual activity.

“Of the ten men infected through sex with another man in the second quarter of this year, six had previously had a negative HIV antibody test, five of whom had tested within the last two years.”

Ms Le Mesurier said that these figures suggest that the increase in HIV infections is being driven, at least in part, by a rise in new infections, rather than a rise in detection/diagnoses of people who have lived, undiagnosed, with the virus for some time.

“The national community forums held to discuss the rise in HIV in New Zealand told us that there are a lot of social, behavioural and medical reasons for the rise in HIV among MSM,” she said.

“Our ‘End the Silence’ campaign is part of our response to the changing dynamics of the HIV epidemic in New Zealand and we have already had good community feedback about the campaign, especially the focus on the serious consequences of HIV infection. Other campaigns will follow, including initiatives that will have come out of the community forums.

“But, ultimately, the answer to ending this epidemic among MSM in New Zealand remains what it has been for the 20 or so years of the epidemic – the consistent use of condoms for anal intercourse. Working with our communities to re-establish support for HIV avoidance continues to be an NZAF priority.”

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