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Late testing for HIV compromising men's treatment

Thu 1 Dec 2011 In: New Zealand Daily News View at Wayback

Almost half of gay and bi men diagnosed with HIV in recent years are leaving getting tested so late their subsequent treatment is compromised.   And over a half of those men are leaving their testing even longer so that they are already in a state of advanced HIV disease before discovering they have HIV. During the past six years 41% of men delayed testing too long and 25% were in the advanced HIV disease stage. Maori and Pacific men have been revealed to be more likely than others to be testing late. The trends have been highlighted in the just-released half-yearly summary of HIV diagnoses, compiled by the AIDS Epidemiology Group at the University of Otago Medical School. "The earlier HIV is diagnosed the better it is for the individual and for control of HIV in the community," the summary's authors say. "It means that the most effective treatment can be offered, and that infected people can be advised to behave in safe ways. Hence early diagnosis can reduce the risk of new infections. In addition, people taking anti-retroviral [medications] are less infectious." Nigel Dickson “These findings indicate that HIV testing needs to be encouraged among those who may have been at risk, and this means it has to be available at a range of sites and in a way that people don’t fear being stigmatised,”  says Associate Professor Nigel Dickson of the AIDS Epidemiology Group. He notes that “a problem of relying solely on this approach for the control of new infections is that people are particularly infectious soon after infection occurs. Even with widespread and frequent testing not all cases will be picked up in these early weeks. Some risks will exist while people engage in unsafe sex, particularly anal sex among men who have sex with men without condoms. Therefore consistent condom use is a also needed to achieve 'Zero New Infections.'” Shaun Robinson That Zero New Infections goal is part of the "Getting to Zero" campaign for World AIDS Day which is being marked today. The global focus is on three aspirational messages: zero new HIV infections, zero AIDS related deaths and zero discrimination. The key to ending the HIV epidemic amongst New Zealand's gay and bi men is increasing rates of condom use, says NZ AIDS Foundation Executive Director Sean Robinson. "Condoms remain the single most effective tool in reducing the onward transmission of HIV." You can discuss this New Zealand gay community news story in the Forum.    

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Thursday, 1st December 2011

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