HIV down overall, but on rise in straight Australian men

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HIV diagnoses have hit a seven-year low in Australia, but the trends among heterosexual men are less encouraging.

A report by the Kirby Institute at the University of NSW found that among gay and bisexual men, new diagnoses fell by 15 per cent in one year from 2016 to 2017. The decrease was even more marked among Australian-born gay and bisexual men at 25 per cent.

New HIV diagnoses attributed to heterosexual sex rose 10 per cent over the past five years and 14 per cent between 2016 and 2017, according to the Kirby report.

Heterosexual sex accounted for one in four new HIV diagnoses in 2017 (238 people: 145 men and 93 women).

New HIV diagnoses in men that were attributed to heterosexual sex (rather than injecting drugs) rose 19 per cent over the past five years.

The rise in HIV among heterosexuals was small but concerning, the head of the Kirby Institute’s Surveillance, Evaluation and Research Program and co-author of the report, Professor Rebecca Guy, told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Overall the number of HIV diagnoses fell to 963 new cases in 2017 – the lowest number since 2010 and a 7 per cen t drop in the past five years.

The drop among gay and bisexual men is the result of an increase in HIV testing and treatment, and the rise of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), all of which reduce the risk of individuals transmitting the virus, the report said.

“This is a fantastic achievement for Australia, and reflects strengthened clinical and public health initiatives, and the leadership of people living with HIV,” Professor Guy said.

This article was originally published in the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association publication, Lamp.

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