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Heterosexual HIV figures highlight diverse need

MEDIA RELEASE: October 3, 2006

Heterosexual HIV figures highlight diverse need

The range of ethnicities among new heterosexual HIV diagnoses in New Zealand highlights a diverse need for health care and support services for those living with the virus, says the New Zealand AIDS Foundation.

Figures released today from the AIDS Epidemiology Group at Otago University show that although gay and bisexual men remain the most at-risk group for HIV, a rising number of heterosexual infections have been diagnosed in recent years, and an increasing number of women are affected.

The trend for heterosexual infections diagnosed in New Zealand mirrors the UK, where the major driver of the heterosexual epidemic is an increase in diagnosed infections in people from parts of the world with high HIV prevalence.

“These figures include New Zealanders who have been infected in high prevalence countries and returned home as well as new migrants,” says NZAF Executive Director Rachael Le Mesurier. “It’s a timely reminder for all New Zealanders to continue to remain vigilant around safe sex and condom use, especially when travelling overseas.“

New Zealand has remained a low prevalence country for HIV by building strong communities and countering stigma and discrimination against those communities most at-risk, as well as supporting those living with the virus.

“Many New Zealanders will remember our welcoming of Eve van Grafhorst when she was shunned by an Australian kindergarten. Eve was HIV-positive – she was also a migrant,” Le Mesurier says. “These new figures are a challenge for all New Zealanders to be honest about human behaviour and the effectiveness of condoms as the best protection from HIV, combined with evidence-based programmes for sex education.”

NZAF's Positive Health Services provides support for all those living with or affected by HIV, irrespective of gender, sexual orientation or ethnicity.

ENDS

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