HIV stats confirm need for decisive action says AFAO

Red Ribbon heartThe release of HIV statistics for 2013 shows that increased access to testing and treatment will be absolutely critical if Australia is to achieve the target of zero new HIV diagnoses by 2020.

In 2013, 1,235 new cases of the virus were diagnosed and reported across Australia – a slight reduction on the 1,253 new infections reported in 2012.

While the figures show that the Australian HIV epidemic is relatively stable, they point to the need for a sustained commitment to increasing HIV testing and condom use. It is also crucial the focus is broadened to support the rollout of other effective prevention measures including ‘treatment as prevention’.

“If we are to achieve the ambitious goal of ending HIV transmission by 2020, we need a concerted effort to re-engage gay men around condom use and improve access to medicines that help prevent HIV transmission,” said AFAO Executive Director, Rob Lake. “Rapid and home testing for HIV are proving more and more popular and access to them needs to be expanded.

“We also need to keep the conversation about HIV prevention and stigma happening amongst gay men and the broader community. This has begun but we need support and action from government, health providers and our community to make it effective.”

Key findings to come out of the data include:

  • Gay men continue to account for 75% of new HIV infections;
  • There has been a gradual decline in the use of condoms for casual sex among gay men (9% decline over 10 years);
  • HIV rates among sex workers and people who inject drugs remain encouragingly low;
  • A minority of people with HIV are diagnosed after their immune system has already experienced some decline – reinforcing the need for regular HIV testing for all sexually active gay men; and
  • About six in ten of people diagnosed with HIV have suppressed viral load as a result of effective medication, giving them a significant health benefit and also reducing the risk of onward transmission.

To read the Kirby Institute’s comment click here. For more information about AFAO, visit: www.afao.org.au for details.

Image: Cienpies Design

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