The latest data showing a continued decline in HIV transmission rates in NSW has been welcomed by ACON.
The NSW HIV Strategy Data Report – Quarter 2 showed that between April and June 2018, there was a 27 per cent drop in newly diagnosed HIV cases in NSW.
This builds on data that shows the number of early stage infections diagnosed in Australian-born men who have sex with men (MSM) in the first half of 2018 was 49 per cent less than the average for the same period of the previous five years.
ACON Acting CEO Karen Price said: “The latest data report showing a sustained downward trend in HIV diagnoses in NSW clearly demonstrates that we’re starting to get results from our collective efforts to ending HIV transmission. The combination of earlier diagnosis through increased testing, wider reach and earlier uptake of treatment, and the removal of barriers in accessing PrEP are all contributing to transforming the prevention landscape in NSW.”
HIV testing rates continue to increase
The report also shows that testing rates continue to reach record highs, with a six per cent increase in the number of HIV tests compared with the same period last year (147,464 tests carried out in the April-June quarter, as opposed to 138,592 last year).
“But while we are seeing a reduction in HIV transmission rates among Australian-born gay men and men who have sex with men, we are not seeing this decline among people born overseas,” Price said.
Overseas-born gay men experience higher than average HIV transmission rates
The number of new diagnoses in overseas-born gay men and MSM in the first six months of this year is 10% higher than the average of the same period of the previous year – but the second quarter of 2018 was lower than recent quarters.
“This means we must continue our efforts to engage overseas-born gay men and men who have sex with men in HIV prevention and education programs. ACON is currently developing and implementing a range of strategies to better engage with this population.”
Furthermore, in the first six months of 2018, two-thirds of newly diagnosed gay men and MSM hadn’t had a HIV test in the 12 months prior to being diagnosed, and 44% had evidence of late diagnosis.
Frequent testing still required to combat late HIV diagnoses
“Moreover, while HIV testing rates are at an all-time high, there are still a number of people being diagnosed late with HIV. We must ensure gay men and other men who have sex with men continue to test more and more frequently, by providing a range of testing options, such as ACON’s a[TEST] and dried blood spot testing. Knowing your HIV status is important as it means you can take control of your health.
Condoms, PrEP and UVL are key to reducing HIV transmissions
“With the recent listing of PrEP on the PBS, now more than ever we have a more comprehensive and accessible range of evidence-based prevention technologies available to gay men and MSM,” Price added. “Not only does this include condoms and PrEP, but also the advances in treatment for people living with HIV that see viral loads suppressed to an undetectable level, meaning that HIV cannot be transmitted to their HIV negative partners.
“Together, gay men and men who have sex with men in NSW have consistently shown that they’re committed to ending HIV and taking control of their sexual health. We still have a long way to go but we’re absolutely heading in the right direction and that’s very encouraging.
How close are we to ending HIV in NSW?
“NSW is considered a world leader in our response to the HIV epidemic. Working together with dedicated clinical, research and community sector partners, and with continued support and leadership from the NSW Government, we will continue to move towards our collective goal of virtually eliminating HIV transmission in NSW by 2020,” Price said.
This content has been adapted from the ACON website, and you can read the original piece here.