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New HIV cases increase by 17% in 2005

7 March 2006

New HIV cases increase by 17% in 2005

The prevalence of HIV cases in New Zealand continues to remain amongst the lowest in the world despite a 17% rise in new HIV cases in 2005, the Ministry of Health says.

The Ministry's senior advisor public health medicine, Dr Douglas Lush, says there is no cure for HIV and AIDS but it is preventable. Safe sex and in particular using condoms is still the best form of protection against HIV.

"Both men and women need to take responsibility for protecting themselves and their sexual partner against infection," Dr Lush says.

Figures released by the AIDS Epidemiology Group at Otago University show a rise in the numbers of recorded new HIV cases from 157 in 2004 to 183 in 2005.

Last year there were 183 people newly diagnosed with HIV, a 17 % increase when compared to the year before. Of these cases, 89 were males who had had sex with other males.

Seventy three heterosexual people were diagnosed with HIV in 2005, 35 of which were men and 38 were women. This is a similar number to those diagnosed in 2004.

There were also 6 children diagnosed last year with HIV which was acquired through mother to child transmission (perinatal transmission). Four of these children were born in New Zealand to women who weren't diagnosed before giving birth.

"Antenatal HIV screening will begin in the Waikato District Health Board region on 1 April 2006. Over the next three years New Zealand will progressively move to a policy of routinely offering antenatal HIV screening as part of antenatal care," Dr Lush says.

New Zealand also has an important role to play in supporting the wider Pacific region through HIV and AIDS education and public health promotion.

In the Pacific region a total of 11,212 positive HIV cases had been recorded at the end of 2004. Worldwide there's an estimated 40.3 million people now living with HIV.

New Zealanders should not be complacent and should continue to protect themselves and their sexual partner, Dr Lush says.

The needle and syringe exchange programmes has also been a factor in keeping infection rates in New Zealand below those of other countries.

Further information about HIV and AIDS, including antenatal HIV screening, is available on the Ministry of Health website: http://www.moh.govt.nz/aids

ENDS

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