Article Title:NZ sees highest number of new HIV cases ever
Author or Credit:NZAF Press Release
Published on:27th February 2004 - 12:00 pm
Story ID:154
Text:The NZ AIDS Epidemiology Group today released the figures of the new cases of HIV in 2003 and they are the highest ever in the history of the epidemic in NZ. 188 people were reported as the total new cases compared with 136 in 2002. There have been increases in all categories with the largest group being men who have sex with men (MSM). This has leapt from a total of 67 in 2002 to 93 in 2003 - 39%. "Each year from 2001 there has been an increase of new cases amongst MSM. 2003 was the worst increase yet. How many more friends, family and partners do we have to hand over to this vicious virus? The drugs may make it appear like it is beaten but all they do is delay the onset of illness," said Rachael Le Mesurier, Executive Director of the AIDS Foundation. "The combination drug treatments are not a cure. They do not eliminate the virus, they just suppress it." As with all data on human behaviour there is not one simple answer for this increase. "What happened here in 2003 is similar to that occurring in many other developed countries. Internationally most gay men know the message about condoms but some are balancing that against the myths and misinformation about HIV drugs. The only winner in this dangerous lottery is the HIV/AIDS epidemic." Contrary to yet more assumptions it is not mainly younger men who are taking unnecessary risks. The increase is predominantly in men between 30 and 39 years old. Young men seem to be leading the way in condom use and sensible decisions about safe sex. It appears that some MSM think that safe sex isn't necessary when living, visiting or travelling overseas. NZ MSM are getting infected overseas as well as in NZ (just over 40% of the total new MSM cases) so it is clear that practising safe sex is necessary wherever the sex is happening. Complacency and misinformation about HIV drugs has probably resulted in many MSM assuming that: Men taking the pills are still alive so it must be easy The drugs, including the latest ones, will always be available So it's now OK to stop using condoms and take the risk of becoming infected. The facts are: Up to 24 pills a day, losing the body beautiful, horrible side effects, low sex drive and being too exhausted or too ill to work. This is most certainly not the 'easy option' With over 40 or more people barely managing on a mixture of 'old' treatments there is no guarantee that the latest drugs will be there when they are needed. Taking pills is not the answer to keeping in the best health, as many living with diabetes and life threatening obesity know. "HIV drugs merely delay the onset of AIDS and AIDS still means a life cut short. Condoms work and safe sex is the only way for MSM to stay HIV negative for the rest of their lives. These are the facts". NZAF Press Release - 27th February 2004    
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