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Auckland over-represented in new HIV statistics

25 11 05

Auckland over-represented in new HIV statistics

A programme aimed at turning around Auckland’s serious over-representation in new HIV figures among men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM) has hit Auckland streets and venues and will feature at holiday spots over the summer.

Last month the New Zealand AIDS Foundation revealed that for the first six months of this year, one new HIV infection was being diagnosed among New Zealand’s MSM every four days.

Now the Foundation has revealed that a further analysis of those first six-month figures shows that 77% of the new HIV infections occurred in the Auckland/Northland region, a substantially higher share than the estimated proportion of New Zealand’s MSM population living in this area. (sources estimate about 45% of New Zealand’s openly gay/bisexual MSM live in Auckland).

“Auckland is our Sydney,” says Te Herekiekie Herewini the Foundation’s Tumuwhakahaere National Manager of Health Promotion. “It’s seen as our gay mecca. Well, clearly, there is trouble in Paradise.”

The “one every four days” campaign will use publicly pasted posters around Auckland’s known “gay” areas, plus safe sex packs, venue posters, postcards, gay and mainstream advertising and internet advertising, particularly on gay contact sites.

“Last year (2004) we saw 73 new HIV diagnoses among homosexually-active men and we were very concerned, given that from 1997 to 2001 the average had only been about 35 diagnoses a year. But, if the trend for the first half of 2005 continues we’ll be looking at 88 diagnoses by year’s end. That would be the highest number ever in the history of the epidemic in New Zealand.”

Te Herekiekie Herewini said one of the key messages in the campaign would be that HIV was at its most infectious directly after exposure – before any test can detect it, before the person with the virus is likely to know they have it.

“There is a perception out there that anal intercourse without condoms might be OK if people can somehow assure each other that they are HIV negative. But how can you give or accept that assurance given that, if you or your partner has recently had unsafe sex with someone else, you or they may well be newly infected and be very infectious, but just not know it? It makes a mockery of so-called risk-reduction strategies based on an expectation of disclosure, or an assessment of risk depending on things like the physical appearance of a prospective partner.”

Te Herekiekie Herewini said the “one every four days” campaign would also be rolled out at popular gay camps over the summer period near Auckland, Wellington and Nelson.

“These camps attract men from all over New Zealand and from overseas and we know that summer holidays are a time when people increase their level of sexual activity. We’ll also be reminding men that even if they don’t live in Auckland they can’t relax their commitment to safe sex. After all, the latest quarterly figures show an increase in new HIV diagnoses in the Midland region (around Hamilton) and it wasn’t that long ago that the South Island was the region over-represented in new HIV statistics.

“Our key message throughout New Zealand will be that men who remain HIV negative use condoms for anal sex. No exceptions.”


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