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Encouraging Drop in New HIV Diagnoses

9 March 2012

Encouraging Drop in New HIV Diagnoses

As Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director, and Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator, depart New Zealand, the latest figures for new HIV diagnoses have been welcomed as good news by the New Zealand AIDS Foundation (NZAF). The new figures indicate that the numbers of new HIV diagnoses for some population groups have dropped to levels not seen since the early 2000’s. “New HIV diagnoses for gay and bisexual men in New Zealand have been reduced by around a third and this is very encouraging” says Shaun Robinson, NZAF Executive Director.

The new number, released by the AIDS Epidemiology Group at the University of Otago, show that in 2011, 59 gay and bisexual men were diagnosed with HIV and 28 people acquired HIV through heterosexual transmission. “While this decrease is very welcome there are many notes of caution”, says Robinson. “The number of people diagnosed with HIV depends on the number of people who get tested for HIV. These latest epidemiology figures confirm that far too many people are still not testing – 34% of the gay and bisexual men diagnosed had already had their HIV progress past the stage where treatment should have started”.

The new figures follow a period of twelve months where the NZAF has seen a massive increase in on-line contact with gay and bisexual men. The NZAF also report that HIV testing in their centres increased by 14% in the six months to December 2011. “I think the 2011 diagnoses indicate that our renewed prevention and testing response is heading in the right direction”, says Robinson. “We are on track to distribute 500,000 condom and lube packs this year. All the signs are that we should keep doing what we are doing.”

Robinson says the new numbers leave no room for complacency. “The risk of HIV is as high as ever because the number of people living with HIV has been increasing ever since treatment became available in the mid-1990s. So it’s not surprising that there are now about 1 in 15 gay men in Auckland who are living with HIV. That simply means there are more people who can potentially pass HIV on via unprotected sex.”

But Robinson remains realistic. “The 2011 results are great but one year does not make a trend” he said. “I won’t be throwing any parties until we have seen a downward movement over at least three years but it is very encouraged.”


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