NZ HIV infection numbers drop

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The 109 people newly diagnosed with HIV in New Zealand in 2011 was the lowest level in nearly a decade.

Publishing the data today, the AIDS Epidemiology Group said numbers were down among gay and bisexual men and heterosexuals.

It is the lowest total since 2002, with annual new diagnoses having reached about 180 in two years during the past decade.

Of those newly diagnosed last year, 59 were men infected through sex with other men, while 16 men and 12 women were infected through heterosexual contact, and one through injecting drug use.

The means of infection was unknown for 20 people, while one child born overseas in 2005 was diagnosed with HIV infection through mother-to-child transmission.

Group director, Otago University associate professor Nigel Dickson cautioned that the drop in diagnoses did not mean less risk for people having unprotected sex.

That would depend on the number of people with HIV in the population, particularly those who did not know they were infected, as well as how people behaved,” he said.

A recent Auckland study had found about 20 per cent of a sample of gay and bisexual men with HIV were unaware of their HIV status.

Also, a drop in the actual infection rate on the basis of one year’s figures could not be assumed.

The report said 24 people were notified with AIDS in 2011. Of those, 13 were men infected through sex with other men, six men and three women were infected through heterosexual contact, one through injecting drug use, and for one the means of transmission was unknown.

Seventeen had their AIDS diagnosis within three months of being diagnosed with HIV and so probably would not have had the opportunity for antiretroviral treatment to control progression of their HIV  infection.

That suggested even fewer people would be progressing to AIDS if more people were presenting for AIDS testing.

Of the 59 men diagnosed with HIV infection as a result of sex with other men, 44 were reported to have been infected in this country.

Among the 28 people diagnosed with heterosexually acquired infection, 10 were reported to have been infected in this country, and 17 overseas.

The number of people with heterosexually acquired HIV infected overseas had dropped markedly since a peak in 2006.

That followed a rise in immigration of people from high prevalence areas in the early 2000s, and a requirement since October 2005 for compulsory HIV testing of those seeking a visa for more than a year’s stay in New Zealand. Immigration from high prevalence countries had also fallen in  recent years.

Since 1995, there had been 106 births to women with diagnosed HIV at the time of delivery. None of those children had become infected, the report said.

If the mother’s HIV had not been diagnosed before giving birth, it was anticipated around 30 children may have become infected.

Data from PHARMAC  showed the number of people receiving subsidised antiretroviral treatment (ART) for HIV  rose from 1348 at the end of June 2010, to 1518 at the end of June 2011. Of those 80 per cent were males,  and 20 per cent were females.

It was estimated, 1603 people would have been on ART at the end of 2011.

Specialists approved to prescribe ART reported just under 80 per cent of their patients were on ART. That suggested around 2000 people with diagnosed HIV were under specialist HIV care in this country.

by Michael Daly
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