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HIV rise brings wave of other sex diseases

Tue 2 Oct 2007 In: New Zealand Daily News

New Zealand's HIV epidemic shows no sign of slowing down, with 84 new diagnoses reported by the AIDS Epidemiology Group for the first half of 2007. Gay and bisexual men are the group most affected, both by HIV and a disturbing resurgence of syphilis recorded at sexual health clinics between 2002 and 2006. The New Zealand AIDS Foundation is deeply disturbed by the news, and says these epidemics are linked. “Sexually transmitted infections like this were quite common among gay men in the 1970s, before AIDS, when condom use was rare,” says Douglas Jenkin, NZAF National Campaigns Co-ordinator. “When condom use became the norm during the first wave of the HIV epidemic in the 1980s, rates of STI infection plummeted.” The presence of a sexually transmitted infection (STI) like syphilis, gonorrhoea or chlamydia - all of which are on the increase as well - make the body more vulnerable to HIV infection and vice versa. “Every act of unprotected sex opens up pathways for these infections to spread further in our communities,” Jenkin says. “Gay and bisexual men in particular need to be aware that a decision to have unprotected anal sex is a choice that is clearly harming an increasing number of men - friends and partners alike.” Discussion at NZAF's recent community forums for gay and bisexual men suggested that unprotected anal sex was being glorified through a lack of peer pressure against the practice. “No-one wants to become infected, let alone be responsible for passing an infection on,” Jenkin says. “Those of us who were around in the 1970s remember how unpleasant it was. Condoms, along with regular sexual health checkups, are by far the better choice for avoiding HIV and STIs.” NZAF Research Director Tony Hughes says similar linked epidemics of HIV and syphilis have been taking place in Sydney, Melbourne, San Francisco and London. “We don't want gay and bisexual men to be blindsided by this. Syphilis is a real threat in particular, and we need to respond before it takes hold in New Zealand as it has already done overseas.”     Ref: NZ AIDS Foundation (Press Release)

Credit: News Staff

First published: Tuesday, 2nd October 2007 - 1:08pm

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