Monday 30 November 2009
World AIDS Day Canterbury District Health Board is reminding Cantabrians to have safe sex as the highest number of HIV cases ever was diagnosed nationally last year.
“There were 184 New Zealanders diagnosed with HIV through antibody testing last year and a further 78 people were diagnosed in the first half of 2009,” said CDHB’s Sexual Health Centre’s Clinical Director Edward Coughlan. “World AIDS Day is being held on December 1 and it is a good time to remind people to use condoms,” Dr Coughlan said.
Of those newly diagnosed in 2008, 91 were men infected through sex with other men, 61 (39 men and 22 women) through heterosexual contact, two through injecting drug use and two through a transfusion (while overseas).
There were four children infected through mother to child transmission (three while overseas and one in New Zealand), three people had another means of infection and the means of infection was unknown or unreported for 21 people.
New Zealand’s high rate of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), compared with similar countries, can increase people’s vulnerability to HIV infection, Dr Coughlan said. Wearing a condom can protect people against HIV and these other STIs, such as gonorrhoea and chlamydia, which are more commonly transmitted.
“A person infected with HIV is more likely to pass on HIV if he or she (or his or her partner) is infected with another STI. This appears to be true for both STIs that cause genital ulcer diseases – most commonly genital herpes and syphilis – and also STIs that result in inflammation without ulcers – such as gonococcal and chlamydial infections.” The Canterbury District Health Board sent out an alert in August to general practitioners about the significant increase in cases of early infectious syphilis in Canterbury, which follows a national trend.
“Initially this had been mainly confined to those men who have sex with other men but there are now cases occurring in heterosexual men and women,” said Dr Coughlan. Identifying symptoms when people visit their general practitioner is a key way to prevent further spread. Symptoms of secondary syphilis include rashes, mouth ulcers, and hair loss.
Syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhoea can all be treated very effectively with antibiotics.
“The important message for everyone is to wear a condom and protect themselves from these sexually transmitted infections,” said Dr Coughlan.