HIV On The Rise

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New HIV diagnoses in Australia are the highest in a decade, according to a national report complied by UNSW researchers released this week.

The data show a significant drop in new diagnoses from 1996 to 2000, but a 41 percent increase between 2000 and 2005.

The findings are contained in the tenth HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections in Australia Annual Surveillance Report, which has been prepared by researchers from UNSW's National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research (NCHECR) for the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing.

The report, which is one of two from UNSW to be released at the Australasian Society for HIV Medicine's annual conference in Melbourne, shows 930 people were diagnosed last year, while there were 890 in 1996.

Other findings include:

  • Diagnosis of chlamydia has increased fourfold over the past ten years

  • The diagnosis of gonorrhoea has doubled over the past ten years

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  • In NSW and Victoria, the diagnosis of syphilis doubled between 2001 and 2005

  • Queensland has the highest increase in diagnosed newly acquired HIV infection over the past five years (48 percent), followed by Victoria (40 percent), South Australia (34 percent) and NSW (20 percent)

The second report, by UNSW researchers at the National Centre in HIV Social Research (NCHSR), finds that a quarter of HIV-positive gay men enrolled in one study have had unprotected intercourse with at least one casual partner whose status is unknown in the past six months.

Other findings in this report, that focuses on behavioural trends in sexually transmitted diseases, include:

  • HIV-positive gay men were more likely to have had unprotected intercourse with casual partners than HIV-negative gay men

  • Of the few HIV-positive people in relationships with HIV-negative partners, one in twenty sometimes have unprotected sex, according to one study

  • More than 30 percent of heterosexual women and 28 percent of heterosexual men reported to have never used condoms with a casual partner in the previous six months

  • HIV testing rates are lower for younger gay men (65 to 75 percent), compared with gay men more broadly (80 percent)
  • The Federal Health Minister, Tony Abbott, has reportedly asked his advisory council to consider how to reduce the infection rate of HIV after the release of the report.
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