New Zealand has recorded the highest number of newly diagnosed HIV infections ever among gay and bisexual men in 2015.
And more than half of these have had the virus over a long period of time.
These latest figures are damning for the Country’s AIDS Foundation which has worked extremely hard with more than $4.3 million in Government funding per year to reduce the epidemic and it comes while other countries such as Australia are legalising pre-exposure prophylaxis(PrEP) as an aid to reducing infection of the disease.
Acting Executive Director of the New Zealand AIDS Foundation (NZAF) Nick Laing said the trend is concerning.
“New Zealand’s HIV epidemic is relatively small by international standards but that is not good enough,” said Mr. Laing.
“High condom use has kept the HIV prevalence low but it is clear that condom promotion alone will not stop HIV.
“We need significantly more testing throughout the health system, the removal of PHARMAC’s CD4 threshold so that people can access treatment as soon as they are diagnosed and funding for PrEP, a daily pill that can prevent HIV infection.”
The Univeristy of Otago’s annual study concluded:
- 88 gay and bisexual men were diagnosed as having contracted HIV in New Zealand compared to 86 in 2014.
- A further 34 gay and bisexual men were infected overseas or the place of infection was unknown; a total of 120 who were first diagnosed in New Zealand.
- Another 36 heterosexual men and women were first diagnosed with HIV in New Zealand in 2015, two less than in 2014.
- A total of 185 people were first diagnosed with HIV in New Zealand, and an additional 39 had previously been diagnosed overseas.
Mr Laing said the NZAF was doing all it could to promote condom use and test as many people as possible but that the Government needed to inject more funds towards their programs.
Recently, the Government announced $124 million to be made available for PHARMAC and NZAF strongly believes that some of that funding need to go towards removing the outdated CD4 threshold.
This currently denies hundreds of Kiwis who have been diagnosed with HIV from accessing medication until their immune system is significantly damaged.
Otago University’s AIDS Epidemiology Group has recommended that PrEP, should be considered for those at highest risk of HIV.
“We agree with this recommendation that PrEP is a highly effective prevention option for some people and it needs to be funded,” said Mr. Laing.
“There is consensus around the world that these are the combination of actions that can end HIV.
“It is what the World Health Organisation has recommended. The fact that we have seen another year of increased new infections means that government needs to act urgently to bring New Zealand’s response to HIV up to speed,” said Mr Laing.
Last Updated on May 25, 2016