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HIV Epidemic Continues in NZ on World AIDS Day

MEDIA RELEASE: 30 November 2011

HIV Epidemic Continues in NZ on World AIDS Day

As HIV diagnoses continue to rise in New Zealand, the New Zealand AIDS Foundation (NZAF) and New Zealanders affected by HIV, will mark World AIDS Day on Thursday, 1 December. In 2010, 149 people were diagnosed with HIV in New Zealand, continuing the trend of increased numbers since 2003. While figures from the AIDS Epidemiology Group at the University of Otago showed a sharp decline in new HIV diagnoses for heterosexual New Zealanders, 2010 was the worst year on record for gay and bisexual men in New Zealand with 95 new diagnoses of HIV.

Shaun Robinson, Executive Director of the NZAF says, “The epidemic is in a resurgent phase due to changes in treatment, community perceptions and sexual networking. As the epidemic has become less visible over the years, a certain complacency around sexual safety has crept in. A clear and determined focus on HIV prevention strategies is needed now, more than ever before.”

The global theme of World AIDS Day, Getting to Zero has been adopted by New Zealand organisations. Getting to Zero focuses on three aspirational messages; zero new HIV infections, zero AIDS related deaths and zero discrimination. Launched by UNAIDS earlier, this year, these three messages also reflect issues that are at the forefront of New Zealand’s HIV epidemic; HIV prevention initiatives, access to essential treatment and equality for people living with HIV.

“The key to ending the HIV epidemic is increasing rates of condom use in the communities most affected by HIV,” says Robinson. Condoms remain the single most effective tool in reducing the onward transmission of HIV. The National Institutes for Health in the US confirm that condoms reduce the probability of transmission per sex act by 95 per cent when used correctly and consistently; a figure supported by the World Health Organisation.

Robinson says, “The best estimate of the number of people living with HIV in New Zealand in 2010 is 1800. The majority of these will be gay and bi-sexual men. That’s 1800 people who have been needlessly infected. While New Zealand has one of the best records in the world for controlling the HIV epidemic, World AIDS Day is a sobering reminder that there are many people we still need to reach. An increased focus on safe sexual behaviour will be the driving force behind the NZAF’s initiatives for 2012.”


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