New data shows a 22% decline in the rates of HIV in Victoria, the infection that causes AIDS.
There were 57 cases of HIV between April and June this year in Victoria, compared with 92 for the same period 12 months prior. This brings the year-to-date total to 130 new HIV cases, compared with 167 for the same period in 2017.
The latest data also shows a 27% drop in newly diagnosed HIV cases in NSW, which has been welcomed by ACON, the state’s leading HIV prevention and HIV support organisation.
ACON Acting CEO Karen Price said the data shows that earlier diagnosis through increased testing, wider reach and earlier uptake of treatment, and the removal of barriers in accessing HIV treatment drug PrEP are all contributing to get results.
PrEP is shown to reduce the risk of HIV transmission by more than 99%. The Victorian Government fought hard to get the drug listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, launching a study that helped more than 4,000 Victorians access the drug.
However, Ms Price said the news is not all good. “While we are seeing a reduction in HIV transmission rates among Australian-born gay men and men who have sex with men (MSM), we are not seeing this decline among people born overseas.”
The number of new diagnoses in overseas-born gay men and MSM in the first six months of this year is 10% higher than the average of the same period of the previous year. In that same period, two-thirds of newly diagnosed gay men and MSM had not had a HIV test in the 12 months prior to being diagnosed, and 44% had evidence of late diagnosis.
“We must ensure gay men and other men who have sex with men continue to test more and more frequently, by providing a range of testing options,” she said. “Knowing your HIV status is important as it means you can take control of your health.”
The Victorian Government is launching a new HIV awareness campaign to meet its target to eliminate new HIV transmissions by 2020.