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Incidence of AIDS cases in NZ more than doubled

Press release: 18 July 2005

Incidence of AIDS cases in New Zealand more than doubled

Official notification that AIDS diagnoses in New Zealand for the first six months of this year were more than double the same period last year is a timely reminder that AIDS is not “yesterday’s issue”, the New Zealand AIDS Foundation says.

The Institute of Environmental and Scientific Research monthly report on disease incidence showed that AIDS diagnoses from 1 January to the end of June this year were 33, compared with 14 for the same period last year.

Because people can live with HIV for years before developing AIDS, the NZAF says the rise in AIDS diagnoses does not mean there has been a doubling of HIV infections in New Zealand over the same period. However, the increase in AIDS diagnoses does come on top of a record increase in new HIV infections in 2003 (repeated in 2004) over previous years.

“One of our concerns,” says NZAF Executive Director Rachael Le Mesurier, “has been that the improvement in HIV treatment, while good news for people living with HIV, has resulted in complacency. Some people seem to think HIV is not so serious any more because the pills keep people alive for a lot longer. This could well be contributing to some people being prepared to take more risks, sexually, than when HIV was thought of an almost instant death sentence. The new AIDS figures, therefore are a timely reminder that we have not defeated HIV in New Zealand, people still get AIDS, with its serious impact on both the quality and length of their lives. It is also a reminder that regular and correct condom use, not medication, is still by far our best defence against HIV.”

Ms Le Mesurier says that the Foundation has also been concerned at reports that some of the new AIDS diagnoses have occurred within days of a person’s HIV diagnoses.

“This affirms our concern that up to 33% of people who are HIV positive do not know they are living with the virus. This is not only very bad for their life expectancy, it works against our efforts to control the spread of HIV. After all just assuming you are HIV negative is not the same as being certain you are because you have tested negative and had safe sex ever since.”

There is also strong evidence that people who know they have HIV are less likely to engage in sexual behaviours that risk passing the virus on.

ENDS

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