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HIV must be classified as "Notifiable Disease"

The Society for Promotion of Community Standards Inc.
P.O. Box 13-683 Johnsonville
Press Release 31 October 2007
HIV must be classified as “Notifiable Disease”

The Society is calling for HIV (the ‘pre-cursor’ of the “scourge of AIDS”) to be classified as a “notifiable disease” under the Health (Infections and Notifiable Diseases) Regulations 1966. AIDS is currently a “notifiable disease” and the Society challenges the NZ Aids Foundation (NZAF) and Gay political lobby groups like GayNZ.com to support its call. Sadly, despite significant taxpayer funding, NZAF, which has been plagued by ongoing political, financial and leadership strife and instability, has failed to avert the rapid rise in HIV infections in New Zealand (infections are overwhelmingly among the homosexual community whose lifestyle it and GayNZ.com succour and champion).

Once a communicable disease such as HIV becomes a “notifiable disease” in law, it enables proper identification of instances of the disease and consideration of the need for effective public health action. This includes proper consideration of the significant risk factors involving men who continue to practice “high risk” anal sex (sodomy) and pose a serious health threat to the wider community.

“Over twenty years since it first emerged, HIV infection and the resultant dreadful scourge of AIDS still afflict New Zealand gay men,” laments GayNZ.com. “Sadly, we continue to get infected in increasing numbers despite the best efforts of the NZ AIDS Foundation, gay community groups and the whole-hearted support of every glbt organisation in the country. Within the gay community support for keeping sexually active gay men from contracting the dreadful and disfiguring virus that causes AIDS is, on the whole, generous and unstinting. The glbt community media have been at the forefront of HIV awareness and action.” [1]

NZAF National Positive Health Manager Eamonn Smythe reports that HIV is most easily transmitted via anal sex without a condom, meaning that men who have sex with men (MSM) remain the highest group for infection in New Zealand. A total of 177 people were diagnosed with HIV through antibody testing in New Zealand in 2006. Of these, 70 were new infections among gay (homosexual) and bisexual men, an infection rate of one every five days [2]. Figures from the AIDS Epidemiology Group at Otago University show to the end of September 2005 a total of 2417 people have been found to be infected with HIV in New Zealand and a total of 884 people notified as having AIDS. In 2005, MSM (homosexual and bisexual men) accounted for 83% of the total HIV diagnoses recorded in this country where infection occurred in New Zealand [3].

The Society wants all those identified as HIV positive to be required by law to disclose information (they have) to health officials on all those they have has sexual relationships with over the three month period prior to testing, so that effective contact tracing of those at serious risk can be carried out and contacts tested and given medical assistance if required (client confidentiality would exclude prostitutes from doing so). They would also be required to disclose to all sexual partners of their HIV+ status even if they use a condom. Severe penalties should be imposed on those who fail to comply with the law.

The Society also wants tests done for all STIs on all those diagnosed with HIV as there is now clear evidence of a relationship between the risk of sexual transmission of HIV and other “classic” STIs – syphilis, genital herpes, genital chlamydial and gonococcal infection [4]. It believes that more research on these links needs to be urgently undertaken among those most at risk of catching HIV, namely men who have sex with men (MSM). The mandatory requirement of contact disclosure proposed is in part based on the fact that it is criminal offence to knowingly expose one’s sexual partner to the HIV virus. (Medical practitioners are already required to carry out partner notification in cases of certain STIs under the Venereal Diseases Regulations 1982. The growing popularity of ‘bare-back’ sex among the promiscuous homosexual community, often involving recreational drug taking, and the high-risk health factors involved, mean that homosexual and bisexual men who indulge in the unhealthy and unnatural practice of sodomy, must be confronted by health officials with their responsibilities under the law.

The Society has concerns about a tax-payer funded “revolutionary new rapid HIV test which gives a result back in only twenty minutes” that is being introduced to the New Zealand AIDS Foundation's Awhina Centre on Dixon Street from Thursday, 1 November 2007. Rapid testing is only available at NZAF centres, and has already been introduced in Auckland, Hamilton and Christchurch. Demand in those centres has been heavy, with a two to three hundred per cent increase in testing numbers since its introduction. The new rapid test system, that has “been approved and tested by the World Health Organisation and is as reliable as the regular test you'd receive from a GP or sexual health clinic” according to NZAF, involves taking two drops of blood via a finger prick, which is then put into the testing device, rather than requiring a full blood test.

HIV is one of many STIs classified as a communicable disease. To achieve effective STI surveillance, two public health goals need to be met [5]. These are to support:

(A) Effective disease control, by detecting cases and their contacts that require specific individual follow-up and treatment, and

(B) Effective disease prevention, by providing ongoing, timely, representative epidemiological data to guide prevention strategies.

Because the HIV virus is known to have a dormancy period of at least 8 weeks (between transmission and the appearance of detectable antibodies), the Society is calling on the NZAF to properly inform gay men being tested for HIV, that a negative test means nothing unless they can be absolutely certain they had no anal sex (with or without a condom) or oral sex with a homosexual partner within the 8 week period prior to testing.

The Society accuses NZAF of giving homosexual and bisexual men false confidence prior to HIV testing, by claiming that provided they used a condom (so-called ‘safe-sex’) in all anal sex over the 8 week period prior to the test, then a negative test result can be relied on confidently. This is patently false. Condoms only reduce the chance of HIV transmission by about 80%.

A new study from the USA has revealed high levels of undiagnosed HIV infection among young gay men. The study examined the behaviour of 5649 men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM) aged under 30 across six US cities, and then compared these behaviours and beliefs to the young men’s actual HIV status determined from blood samples. The study found that 10% of the young men were HIV positive, of whom three quarters (77%) were unaware they were infected. Of the men who were unaware of their infection, 59% perceived themselves to be at low risk for HIV infection, and 74% had previously tested HIV negative. Furthermore, half of the infected-unaware men had unprotected anal sex in the previous six months, with half of these men not using condoms because they either “knew” they were negative; “knew” their partners were negative; or they thought their partners were at low risk of being positive [6].

The Society is calling on the NZAF, gay political lobby groups such as GayNZ.com and others to join the Society in calling for HIV to be given “notifiable disease” status in order to help avert a growing health crisis.

References

[1] Editorial: How do we define "support?"
By Jay Bennie - 22nd August 2007
http://www.gaynz.com/articles/publish/25/article_4807.php

[2] AIDS NEW ZEALAND Issue 60 – September 2007

[3] http://www.nzaf.org.nz/articles.php?id=595

[4] http://www.moh.govt.nz/moh.nsf/indexmh/aids-nz-issue60

[5] Source: The NZ Medical Journal 1 April 2005, Vol. 118 No. 1212
http://www.nzma.org.nz/journal/118-1212/1394/

[6] MacKellar, D. et al. (2005). Unrecognized HIV infection, risk behaviours, and perceptions of risk among young men who have sex with men. Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. Vol. 38: 603-614.

ENDS

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