The rate of HIV infections in New Zealand have reached their highest level in the past seven years.
63% of newly reported HIV cases were by gay and bisexual men who have sex with men (MSM) and this is the third year in a row that this level has increased.
The figures have been released overnight by the AIDS Epidemiology Group showing a total of 217 new HIV cases reported in 2014.
New Zealand AIDS Foundation (NZAF) Executive Director Shaun Robinson said the increase of gay and bisexual men infected with HIV is seriously concerning.
“While it is too early to know if this is a long term trend it confirms the need for increased HIV prevention awareness in the community and ramp up prevention action.”
The government invests $4.2 million per annum and provides for an integrated package of HIV prevention activities focused on promoting condom use, HIV testing and treatment.
New Zealand continues to be one of the lowest prevalence rates amongst MSM in the world at 6.5%. This is less than half that of Australia where MSM HIV prevalence is 14% (it is 24% in San Francisco and close to 20% in London).
Mr Robinson suggests the results need to be seen in context but the figures still need to be taken seriously.
“NZAF is very focused on the 2014 epidemiology results.
“We are determined to improve on New Zealand’s good record in HIV prevention and not to let it go backwards,” said Mr. Robinson.
These results come as many countries in the world including New Zealand are looking at new drugs such as PrEP which can significantly reduce the risk of HIV infection.
Some suggest that using the drug can lead to more MSM to explore sex without condoms which can lead to more infections.
Apart from the fact that many gay and bisexual men are just not taking on board the safe sex messages, nearly one in six of the MSM who contracted HIV in 2014 were infected overseas where efforts to promote condom use have been far less effective.
NZAF will be ramping up prevention efforts including:
- More promotion for the use of condoms to the target 20% of MSM who do not use them regularly.
- HIV testing is being promoted more extensively in a wide variety of settings so as to reduce the rate of undiagnosed and late diagnosed HIV.
- NZAF will step up its work with specific cultural communities to gain their support and understanding in combating HIV.
- PrEP, the use of HIV medications by people who do not have the virus, is being explored for people are at high risk of infection and who resist condoms use.
Last Updated on Jun 4, 2015