The year by year surge in the number of gay and bi men diagnosed with HIV may have already peaked with figures for the first six months of this year cautiously hinting a significant drop may be seen once the whole of year figures are in. Last year 95 men who have sex with men were recorded as receiving an HIV diagnosis, the highest annual figure since records began at the start of the epidemic over 25 years ago. From January to June this year 33 men have been diagnosed who have been infected through sex with another man. A further six people for whom sexuality information is not available are likely to also be gay or bi men. Yearly HIV diagnoses 1985 - 2010. The blue line represents men who have sex with men Health statisticians warn that even if there is a decrease in this year's final figures this may only be a temporary annual dip and that it is always the year by year trend that is more important than individual yearly figures. HIV diagnoses amongst gay and bi men peaked in 1988 but by the late 1990s had dropped significantly, largely due to the success of education, prevention and proactive HIV testing programmes. However, from 2000 a hugely worrying increase in diagnoses saw the annual numbers of men discovering they had been infected with HIV climb higher and higher. Improvement in medical treatments which keep infected men well longer mean HIV has become a less visible presence in recent years, according to Shaun Robinson, Executive Director of the NZ AIDS Foundation. "As the epidemic has become less visible, 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 resurgence in recent years is also due to community perceptions and sexual networking," he says. Today is World AIDS Day, with this year's theme Geting to Zero, underscoring global goals of zero new HIV infections, zero AIDS related deaths and zero discrimination. In New Zealand these goals relate to maintaining commitment to HIV prevention initiatives, access to essential treatment and equality for people living with HIV. The HIV epidemic in New Zealand is overwhelmingly amongst men who have sex with men. The AIDS Foundation urges commitment to using condoms for anal intercourse and says condoms, when properly used with lubricant, are a proven effective protection against HIV infection. You can discuss this New Zealand gay community news story in the GayNZ.com Forum.
Credit: GayNZ.com Daily News staff
First published: Thursday, 1st December 2011 - 12:01am
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