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UNSW Report Speaks To Successes And Challenges In Response To HIV and STIs

27 September 2011

ACON has welcomed the release of data which confirm a modest decline in HIV notifications in NSW concurrent with overall notifications stability nationally.

The 2011 National HIV Surveillance and Behavioural Reports were released today by the University of NSW's Kirby Institute and National Centre in HIV Social Research (NCHSR) at the Australasian HIV/AIDS Conference in Canberra.

ACON A/CEO Geoff Honnor says the data confirm that, overall, 305 new HIV notifications were recorded in NSW in 2010 compared with 328 in 2009. Sex between men accounted for 230 of the cases diagnosed in 2010, down from 235 in 2009.

"It's encouraging that gay men, sex workers and other priority populations in NSW continue to inform themselves about risks and look out for themselves and each other," Mr Honnor says. "We continue to work with our government, non government, clinical and research partners to deliver an effective HIV prevention response here in NSW but it's the collective actions of the people we're primarily here for that ultimately determines the course of the epidemic."

Mr Honnor says the data also show that rates of sexually transmissible infections (STIs) -particularly chlamydia and gonorrhoea - are high among gay men both in NSW and nationally although syphilis notifications show an encouraging decline.

"Getting more men tested for HIV and other STIs continues to be a key focus for ACON and the NSW HIV/STI sector generally. Gay men have been pretty clear about their preference for testing that's quick, cheap and convenient so we're delighted that the about-to-be released new National HIV Testing Policy makes provision for the long overdue introduction of rapid HIV testing. The tests should hopefully be available before too long, once regulatory requirements are met."

In terms of behavioural indicators, the reported rate of unprotected anal intercourse among gay men with casual partners in NSW during 2010 remained stable on 34%, and the proportion of gay men in NSW reporting an HIV test within the last 12 months rose slightly to 71%. Comparable national indicators are 38% and 59%, respectively.

"The NSW HIV response is in good shape comparatively but the indicators speak clearly to the need for a renewal and strengthening of effort," Mr Honnor says.

Mr Honnor says a dramatic drop in cases of genital warts among young women is a striking and very welcome feature of the Report. "This decrease follows the introduction of free immunisation for women against the Human Papilloma Virus and provides an indication of the benefit to be had if free vaccinations were to be extended to young men.

"And the significant increase in HIV positive Australians reporting undetectable viral load in recent years -over 75% of all people living with HIV and over 90% of those on treatment in 2010 - is really good to see, primarily for the health benefit it provides but also - increasingly - for the prevention benefit offered by effective antiretroviral therapy, as well. The future of HIV prevention looks increasingly likely to be based on a combination of biomedical and behavioural approaches and it's a future that indicates exciting and challenging times ahead."

Data from the 2011 National HIV Surveillance and Behavioural Reports is available on the Kirby Institute website: http://www.kirbyinstitute.unsw.edu.au



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For more information or to arrange an interview or photo opportunity, please contact us.

Contact: Andrew Hamadanian, Media and Communications Officer, ACON

Tel: (02) 9206 2044  
Mobile: 0419 555 768 

Email: ahamadanian@acon.org.au