Queensland follows national trend of rising HIV diagnoses
The latest HIV Annual Surveillance report shows the number of newly diagnosed infections in 2013 remained similar to 2012.
Released today, the report shows a total of 1,235 cases of HIV infection were newly diagnosed in Australia in 2013.
The number is slightly down on the 2012 figure (1,253), which was the highest since diagnoses hit a lowpoint of 724 in 1999.
Compiled by UNSW’s Kirby Institute, the report also states around one in seven Australians with HIV do not know they have the virus and HIV continues to be transmitted primarily through sexual contact between men, accounting for 70 per cent of new diagnoses in 2013.
In Queensland there were 236 new diagnoses of HIV in 2013 (259 in 2012).
Recent Queensland Government weekly surveillance figures show Queensland’s year to date HIV notifications at 118, up 40 per cent on last year’s figure.
Queensland AIDS Council executive director John Mikelsons said the increasing trend in HIV notifications underlines the need for a strong, effective and peer led approach to HIV prevention in Queensland.
“We know from the research and evidence that a response led by the affected communities is critical to turning around HIV infection rates,” he said.
“This means targeting our effort and resources to the community that is most affected by HIV – gay men. We need a new, refreshed effort by community organisations, government, clinicians and researchers to ensure we drive down HIV infection rates in Queensland.”
Between 13,200 and 19,500 people were receiving antiretroviral treatment and had undetectable levels of HIV. This corresponds to 49 – 73 per cent of all people with HIV and 57 – 84 per cent of people with diagnosed HIV infection.
Michael Scott, QuAC’s director of Sexual Health said improving testing rates was critical to addressing the HIV epidemic.
Rapid HIV tests can let a person know their HIV status within 30 minutes, and QuAC was the first organisation in Queensland to roll out this technology at its centre in Teneriffe.
“Identifying undiagnosed HIV in the community and treating it early improves health outcomes for people living with HIV and reduces the risk of transmission,” Scott said.
“Indeed, HIV treatment can reduce the risk of transmission by 96 per cent.”
The HIV Foundation Queensland has cautioned that there is much more work to be done to address concerning behavioural trends.
Foundation chair Dr Darren Russell said despite a drop in new HIV notifications
being reported last year, more work needed to be done if Queensland was to see a
reduction in new infections.
“Initiatives aimed at increasing testing and encouraging prevention are at the core of
our work," he said.
Russell said access to rapid HIV testing in Queensland would be greatly increased this year, particularly at a community level.
"As more people get tested we expect to see increased diagnoses, but this is essential if we are to reach the significant number of people who do not know they have the virus as highlighted in the report,’’ he said.