Once each quarter, NSW Health publishes a report specific to HIV in NSW which details findings on new notifications, testing, treatment and safe sex behaviours. The latest report (July to Sept 2016), which was released on World AIDS Day on December 1st, provides us with some insight as to how we are tracking towards ending the epidemic.
In short, the news is good for our community with some results that indicate we may be starting to see a reduction in new cases of HIV.
New Cases of HIV are Down
Figures from the latest report show new notifications in the 3rd quarter of this year have dropped by 22% (compared with the average for the same period in the previous six years) with 70 new HIV diagnoses in NSW this quarter. It can be presumed that EPIC-NSW has had some impact on this, as the study provided PrEP to 3,494 people at high risk of HIV between March to September this year. In particular, the proportion of cases that were newly acquired (within the last 12 months) had dropped, which is a strong indication that less transmission has occurred.
HIV Testing is Up
The report showed a 27% increase in testing at sexual health clinics compared with the same period in 2015 and an overall increase in the frequency of testing. Amongst gay and other men who have sex with men specifically, there was a 34% increase in testing which is fantastic to see that more guys are adopting good testing behaviours.
More People are Achieving ‘Undetectable’ Status’
With a steady increase of people living with HIV getting on treatment, what’s also encouraging is to see that more are achieving an undetectable viral load; between 93% to 95%. A treatment regime can help someone attain an undetectable viral load which provides many health benefits and also reduces the risk of onwards transmission.
Reaching our Goal of Ending HIV Transmission by 2020
With recent advances in HIV prevention treatments and testing technologies, especially the introduction of new HIV prevention drug PrEP and more recently dried blood spot testing, we can significantly improve our capacity to reduce HIV transmission in NSW.
As we approach the Summer season, let’s continue to stay safe, test more often and consider treatment for those of us with HIV who haven’t started yet.
Read the full report NSW Quarter 3 2016 HIV Data Report