NSW Health Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said NSW is a world leader in preventing HIV and is on track to achieve its goal of virtually eliminating HIV transmission by 2020 under the NSW HIV Strategy 2016-2020.
“This new data marks 12 months of rapid decline in new HIV diagnoses among gay and bisexual men, and that’s great news,” Dr Chant said.
“There were 101 new HIV diagnoses in gay and bisexual men in NSW in the first six months of this year – that number is the lowest recorded in NSW since HIV emerged in the 1980s.
“The report shows that in January to June 2017 there was a 39 per cent drop in the number of gay and bisexual men diagnosed with HIV with recent infection, compared with the same period over the past six years (76 down to 46).
“The data demonstrates our continuing leadership in HIV prevention – we are experiencing one of the most rapid decreases in new HIV notifications among gay and bisexual men anywhere in the world.”
Dr Chant said the fall in HIV infections among gay and bisexual men reflects the combined efforts of government, clinicians, researchers and affected communities to encourage more testing, improve treatment rates and provide access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV prevention.
“In the first half of this year, 286,626 tests were performed across NSW – 33 per cent more than the same period in 2012,” Dr Chant said.
“But the number of people diagnosed late with HIV has remained stable, meaning there are still people with undiagnosed HIV infection in the community.
“The Dried Blood Spot (DBS) HIV test, which became available in NSW last December, now provides a new avenue for people to be tested in the privacy of their own home.
“Early detection enables early treatment. This improves the health for people with HIV and prevents HIV from being passed on to others. Ninety-five per cent of people diagnosed in public clinics and private practices are on HIV treatment, and people newly diagnosed with HIV are starting treatment sooner than ever before.
“Added to that, NSW is running the world’s largest PrEP trial, EPIC-NSW. So we’re fighting this battle on three fronts.”
Professor David Cooper, Director of the Kirby Institute which is leading the EPIC NSW trial, said the state’s collaborative approach to fighting HIV was the key to the latest impressive results.
“NSW is a true leader in its approach to HIV prevention,” Professor Cooper said.
“Together with NSW Health, ACON and a network of doctors across the state, we have facilitated the rapid uptake of PrEP among people at high risk of HIV.
“The dramatic reductions in HIV notifications we have achieved are unprecedented.”
Dr Chant said HIV diagnoses among people born overseas or heterosexual people, however, have remained stable.
“While testing rates are at an all-time high, more needs to be done to reach people at high risk of HIV who aren’t aware of their risk.
“I am encouraging everyone at risk or who is unsure of their status to talk to their doctor about having a test as well as their HIV and STI prevention options.”
ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill welcomed the report findings.
“Gay and bisexual men in NSW have mobilised around recent scientific advances that assist to drive down infection rates and improve health outcomes for HIV positive people,” Mr Parkhill said.
“This is a remarkable collective effort and the momentum must be maintained.”