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Largest survey of HIV Positive people released

11 APRIL 2008


Findings from the largest survey of HIV Positive people released

The largest comprehensive national survey into the health and social experiences of people living with HIV in New Zealand was released today. The study was conducted by Dr Jeffrey Grierson from La Trobe University in Melbourne with the support of the New Zealand AIDS Foundation (NZAF), Body Positive, Positive Women, and a number of community groups.

The first HIV Futures New Zealand survey was released in 2002. The

second survey, HIV Futures NZ2, was completed by 261 HIV positive people

in 2007.

“This report gives a comprehensive picture of the health and well-being of HIV positive New Zealanders. It documents the significant improvements in health and well-being from the original survey conducted six years ago.” said Dr Grierson.

“However, there are still major challenges for people living with HIV that include maintaining a good level of health, and participating fully in their communities,” Dr Grierson says. “The release of this report provides a critical opportunity to reflect on the response to HIV in New Zealand, and to ensure future efforts benefit all people with HIV in this country.”

The use of antiretroviral medication has increased (2001: 64%, 2007: 73%) with a very large reduction in those reporting difficulties using these treatments (2001: 79%, 2007: 44%), as well as a decrease in the difficulties with drug timing (2001: 44%, 2007: 24%). This can be attributed to greater access to the newer treatments, which have reduced the pill burden and side effects.

People are taking shorter treatment breaks (2001: 45 days, 2007: 28 days), and are more likely to have discussed this break with their doctor first (2001: 43%, 2007: 65%).

“It is heartening to know that the increase in availability of treatments for people with HIV has had such a positive result; however it is clear that there are still several social issues related to an HIV diagnosis that still need to be addressed. Any unwanted disclosure of a person’s HIV status, with the associated stigma, and even discrimination that results is unacceptable in today’s society.” says NZAF National Positive Health Manager Eamonn Smythe.

In 2007 a higher proportion of participants reported being in paid employment (2001: 53%, 2007: 62%), particularly in full time employment (2001: 38%, 2007: 44%).

While the purchasing power of this population has increased (median weekly personal income has increased 2001: $330, 2007: $486), it remains lower than the remainder of the New Zealand population.

Fewer people reported that their HIV status had been disclosed without their permission in the past two years (2001: 33%, 2007: 19%). For two thirds of these people the disclosure had negative consequences.

“Most of the results from this study show improvements for people living with HIV in New Zealand over the last six years – some of them quite considerable,” says NZAF Research Director Tony Hughes.

“In essence, greatly improved treatment options led to better personal health and well being.” Hughes says.

“The NZAF will take this opportunity to ensure services in the future for HIV positive people are planned using relevant and up to date research,” says Smythe. The HIV Futures NZ2 survey, Mate āraikore a muri ake nei (Tuarua) was conducted by the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society in collaboration with the New Zealand AIDS Foundation.

The survey was funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Health and was supported by funds from the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, and the New Zealand AIDS Foundation.


ENDS


Professor Marian Pitts Professor Marian Pitts is the Director of the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University Melbourne, Australia. Marian has previously held appointments in Zimbabwe, the USA and the UK and has worked in the area of HIV/AIDS and STIs. She has published numerous articles in key journals in her field and is the author of The Psychology of Preventive Health (1996) and co-editor of The Psychology of Health (1998), and, with Anthony Smith, Researching the Margins (2007). Since 2000 as Director of the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health & Society (ARCSHS) at La Trobe University, Professor Pitts has been responsible for building and directing a multi-disciplinary team of 40 staff with qualifications and expertise in psychology, anthropology, sociology, public health, health promotion, methodology, epidemiology, education, women’s health, consumer advocacy and health policy. Since 2000 Professor Pitts has been invited to provide advice and expertise to State and Federal Ministerial committees related to sexual health and STIs, to the World Health Organisation in the areas of sex and sexual health, to the Ford Foundation and the New Zealand Ministry of Health. In 2005 she was Appointed Member of the NHMRC Discipline Panel, and was more recently appointed to the Federal HIV/AIDS and STI Subcommittee of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on AIDS, Sexual Health and Hepatitis. Between 2001 and 2006 Professor Pitts was a Member of Ministerial Advisory Committees on Sexual Health at State and National Level, and in 2006 was appointed to the Australian Research Council Panel of Experts.

Dr Jeffrey Grierson

Dr Jeffrey Grierson is the Senior Research Fellow, Living with HIV Program, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University. He is responsible for a suite of projects funded by the Australian Government addressing the psycho-social context of people living with HIV (PLWHA) in Australia.

He is currently Principal Investigator on a number of projects with people living with HIV/AIDS, including the sixth Australian HIV Futures Survey. His research with HIV positive populations in Australia, India and Southern African acknowledges the importance of HIV positive voices in all aspects of the research process.

Jeffrey also conducts research addressing issues of sexuality and community engagement in Southern Africa, South East Asia and the Pacific. In 2007 he was awarded the inaugural Charles La Trobe Fellowship for research into Male to Male Sexual Practices in the Asia Pacific Region.

He is also the chair of the Victorian AIDS Council Research and Ethics Committee and a board member of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations.

ENDS

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