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Don't rely on lowered HIV load says expert

Sat 7 Jun 2014 In: New Zealand Daily News View at Wayback

Nigel Dickson A leading epidemiologist at Otago University's Medical School has joined in urging gay and bi men not to rely on the possibly reduced level of HIV in their sex partner's system as an escuse to engage in unprotected anal sex. In the face of calls, particularly from overseas, for aggressive treatment of HIV-positive people or even the medication of at risk men men to be relied on instead of condoms to halt the spread of HIV which can lead to AIDS, Associate Professor Nigel Dickson says the reliance on treatment approach is "dangerous." Dickson was commenting following the release of figures which show that the annual rate of newly-diagnosed infections has remained consistent for five years in New Zealand, whereas the rate continues to soar amongst men who have sex with men in other comparable nations. While he acknowledges there are definitely advantages to HIV prevention in infected people having a low viral load he says it should not be relied on as the primary method of protection. “Treatment is important not only for infected people as it greatly increase their life expectancy, but also as it reduces their infectivity," Dickson says. "However, just to rely on this to control the epidemic is dangerous as people are most infective soon acquiring HIV when diagnosis might not have occurred,” he adds. The NZ AIDS Foundation has also been urging gay and bi men not to abandon condom use and instead rely on lowered viral loads or the use of expensive medications before exposure to HIV to ward off infection. Of the most recent HIV diagnosis rate figures, the NZAF says the level of approximately 114 men who have sex with men diagnosed in 2013 "is a good result given the increased number of men living with HIV and the rising MSM diagnoses internationally. But the Executive Director of the NZAF, Shaun Robinson, wants to achieve more. “We have seen a small decline in gay and bisexual men diagnosed with HIV since we started the Love Your Condom programme in 2010 but we definitely want to see a much steeper reduction,” he says. “We totally endorse the prevention recommendations made by the AIDS Epidemiology Group particularly the ongoing promotion of condoms and the expansion of testing and access to anti-retroviral treatments for people with HIV for their individual health benefit and to reduce infectivity.”    

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Saturday, 7th June 2014 - 3:24pm

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