The New Zealand AIDS Foundation is welcoming the reduction in overall numbers of new HIV diagnoses in 2007, in particular that diagnoses among gay and bisexual men have remained equivalent to 2006 levels.
Figures released by the AIDS Epidemiology Group show that 156 new HIV diagnoses were recorded in 2007, with 71 of these being men who were infected through sex with another man.
“Diagnoses among gay and bisexual men reached a peak in 2005, and came down in 2006, which was encouraging,” says Eamonn Smythe, Acting Executive Director of the New Zealand AIDS Foundation. “Although we are pleased there has not been an increase, it is unfortunate that we have not seen a further reduction this year. These numbers are still equivalent to one new diagnosis every five days.”
Diagnoses among heterosexual men and women significantly reduced last year, from 85 in 2006 to 60 (31 men and 29 women) in 2007. As has been the case for the last two decades of heterosexual HIV cases in New Zealand, the majority were people infected overseas in countries where the virus has a high prevalence.
“HIV is at very high levels in some parts of the world, so this is a timely reminder for New Zealanders travelling overseas to remember to use condoms,” Smythe says. “It’s not who you are, but what you do that counts for HIV infection.”
The AIDS Epidemiology Group has also highlighted concerns over the level of undiagnosed HIV in its latest report, emphasising the importance of HIV testing. It is estimated that there around 1500 people with HIV in New Zealand, of whom 340 are undiagnosed.
“We recommend that if you’ve been having unprotected sex, you should have yourself screened for HIV,” Smythe says. “New Zealand AIDS Foundation centres provide a free and confidential rapid HIV testing service which will give you a result back within twenty minutes.
“However, it is important to remember that HIV is most infectious during its first few weeks, before it will show up on any test. HIV is largely a sexually transmitted virus that will infect its host unless there is a physical barrier put in its way. This is why condoms have been so effective in preventing HIV transmission for over twenty years.”
Source: New Zealand AIDS Foundation, New Zealand