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HIV infections continued to fall in first half of 2012

Wed 31 Oct 2012 In: New Zealand Daily News

File photo A further six per cent drop innew HIV diagnoses for gay and bisexual men in the first six months of 2012  is “extremely encouraging” the New Zealand AIDS Foundation says. Statistics from the Otago University AIDS NZ Epidemiology Group show 56 people were diagnosed positive from January to June - and 51 of those are men. Of these men, 31 were infected through sex with other men, while for 10 men the means of infection was unknown or information is still awaited. It is statistically likely that around three quarters of these 'unknowns' will be gay or bisexual men. Of the 31 men confirmed infected through sex with other men, 22 (71 per cent) were infected in New Zealand, and nine (29 per cent) overseas. Four gay or bisexual men were notified with AIDS in the first half of 2012. The six per cent reduction in diagnoses for gay and bisexual men for the first six months of 2012 is on top of a more than 33 per cent decline in 2011, welcome news following 2010 when New Zealand had its worst year on record since the start of the devastating HIV epidemic. This fed fears of a continuance of the slow but steady rise evident since the year 2000. New Zealand AIDS Foundation Executive Director Shaun Robinson says the latest figures are extremely encouraging and the Foundation is “very keen” to see if the pattern of reduced diagnosis continues for the full year. He believes the 2012 numbers show the Foundation’s HIV prevention programme is working: “They demonstrate that the increased emphasis on marketing condom use to at-risk groups is reducing the spread of HIV in New Zealand,” Robinson says. Robinson points to the ramping up of the NZAF’s prevention work since 2009 with the introduction of its Get it On! social marketing campaign and an increase in HIV testing and support services encouraging safe sex behaviour. He says in the last year alone NZAF has also distributed 500,000 condom and lube packs, reached 25,000 people a month using its Get it On! website, and increased HIV testing numbers. “It’s still early days, but the diagnosis figures indicate that this work is paying off,” Robinson says. The New Zealand figures have been released on the back of Australian numbers showing an eight per cent increase in HIV diagnoses across the Tasman in 2011. Robinson has attributed New Zealand’s consistent condom promotion as the primary reason for its comparative success, where Australia’s prevention messaging is becoming increasingly focused on the use of drug-based HIV prevention strategies, with far less emphasis on the promotion of condoms.    

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Wednesday, 31st October 2012 - 10:22am

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