Today is World AIDS Day – a vital opportunity to assess and reflect on the progress we’re making on the elimination of HIV transmissions in NSW.
As a community we have made great progress in recent years, but we cannot afford to lose momentum now. Already in 2023, data from NSW Health from January to June shows 128 residents of New South Wales have been newly diagnosed with HIV.
Key strategies for ending new HIV infections are encouraging sexually active gay and bisexual men to get tested regularly for HIV and STIs; continuing to use HIV prevention methods such as PrEP, condoms and Undetectable Viral Load; and treatment beginning as soon as someone is diagnosed with HIV.
HIV testing rates among gay, bisexual and queer men are returning to pre-COVID pandemic levels. In the second quarter of 2023, HIV testing in NSW was 8% higher compared to the same quarter in 2022. Similarly, the number of HIV tests performed in publicly funded sexual health clinics during the first quarter of 2023 was 24% higher than the same quarter in 2022.
“The data shows that we continue to make overall progress towards our goal of ending HIV transmissions in NSW,” ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill said. “But while we have seen some good results in some areas and groups, like inner city community-connected gay and bisexual men, we know there are still parts of our communities that need more greater focus. For example, we are not seeing the same declines in HIV infections among those living outside metropolitan areas, like Western and South-Western Sydney, as well as among overseas-born gay and bisexual men.
“Ensuring these groups are receiving appropriate and tailored HIV testing, prevention and treatment messages is critical.
“We will continue to work with sector and other partners and commend them for their steadfast commitment to addressing HIV, including the NSW Government and the Australian Government. We welcome the release of national HIV Taskforce Report, which outlines a range of recommendations that aims to accelerate Australia’s HIV response. These include increasing the use of PrEP, increasing testing rates and ensuring access to treatment,” Parkhill said.
Also critical to ending HIV is addressing the HIV stigma and discrimination which still persist, added Parkhill.
“We know that stigma can have profound effects on people living with HIV, in terms of both their physical and mental wellbeing. It can also prevent others at risk from seeking resources and getting tested. It’s important that we continue to challenge and address HIV stigma not only today, but every day.”
2023 marks the 35th anniversary of the first World AIDS Day, which began in 1988 to raise awareness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic across the globe.
“World AIDS Day provides us with an opportunity to pause and remember the millions of people around the world who have died of an AIDS-related illness, as well as those who cared for them,” says Parkhill. “We pay tribute to the courage and resilience of people living with HIV in NSW and around the world.”
David Alexander, ACON Media and Communications
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