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Safe sex best answer for HIV prevention

15 July 1999

Anyone having unprotected sex needs to remember the risks of contracting HIV, the virus which causes AIDS.

"Experience over the last 15 years has clearly shown that using condoms during sexual activity greatly reduces the risk of becoming infected with HIV if your partner has the virus," the New Zealand Aids Foundation, the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective and the Ministry of Health say.

"Bearing in mind that not everyone who is HIV-positive knows they have the virus we can't stress highly enough the importance of condoms," the groups said.

AIDS Foundation spokesman Kevin Hague said recent evidence suggested that New Zealanders were becoming more and more complacent about the risks of HIV transmission.

"It seems that many people are only taking precautions when they know someone has HIV," Mr Hague said.

"This is a recipe for disaster as it will only lead to unnecessary risks - such as when a person's HIV status is not known."

Catherine Healy, spokeswoman for the Prostitutes Collective, said responsibility for ensuring diseases were not transmitted lay with both parties involved in any sexual transaction.

"While many prostitutes working in New Zealand's sex industry are known to test regularly for HIV their clients may not be doing so.

"However regular testing for HIV does not in itself prevent transmission of the virus. That depends on both parties practising safer sex," Ms Healy said.

Both the Foundation and the Collective have been contracted by the Government to promote safe sex messages and assist in developing ways of preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

Ministry of Health spokesman Dr Douglas Lush said about 800 New Zealanders were known to be HIV-positive, and an unknown number - estimated at 200-400 - were living with undiagnosed HIV.

"Recent publicity has prompted us to remind people of the risks of HIV infection, and to protect themselves and their partners."

"Preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS is not just the other person's responsibility," Dr Lush said.

He said New Zealand's relatively low rates of infection reflected in large part the work done by groups like the AIDS Foundation, the Prostitutes Collective and Needle Exchange New Zealand in promoting safe sex messages.


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