05 July 2013

NSW Health is reminding the public to ‘get tested’, as part of the HIV Strategy 2012-2015 ‘A New Era’, launched in December 2012, which aims to raise awareness and improve health outcomes for people with HIV.

Figures released today by NSW Health reveal a 24 per cent rise in HIV infections in 2012 among NSW residents; 409 NSW residents were newly diagnosed with HIV infection in 2012 compared to 330 in 2011.

The data showed that of the 409 diagnoses in 2012, 81 per cent were acquired by homosexually active men, 14 per cent by heterosexually active persons, and two per cent through sharing injecting equipment.

NSW Health is taking this opportunity to remind the public to stay safe, get tested, get treated and help prevent HIV infection. 

The ‘New Era’ strategy is aimed at driving down HIV infections, and improving health outcomes for individuals with HIV through:

  • reinforcing the importance of condom use
  • earlier detection through increased testing
  • promoting the benefits of early treatment
  • implementing a new advice and support program for doctors and their patients at the time of diagnosis.

Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerry Chant, said, “Since the strategy was introduced six months ago, early indications show an increase in the number of people getting tested for HIV across metropolitan Sydney, with monitoring showing over 190,000 HIV tests conducted in NSW between January and May 2013. This is encouraging, but more work can be done.

“The highest number of HIV infections is seen in people in their thirties, with an increase also reported among people in their twenties as well as those over fifty.

“Although the majority of HIV infections are contracted from male-to-male sex, it’s important to note we have also seen an increase in infections among heterosexual men and women.

“The incidence of HIV infection does fluctuate. While numbers have been steady over the last 15 years, the number of patients newly diagnosed with HIV infection increased in 2012.  

Dr Chant said, “Early diagnosis allows early treatment. Antiviral treatment not only improves health and lifespan but also reduces the risk of spreading HIV to others. Treatment is now simpler with less severe side effects.

“We have set some challenging targets, including the virtual elimination of HIV transmission in NSW by 2020,” Dr Chant said.

These targets include:

  • increase the proportion of people living with HIV on antiretroviral treatment to 90 per cent
  • reduce the transmission of HIV among gay and other homosexually active men by 60 per cent by 2015, and by 80 per cent by 2020
  • reduce heterosexual transmission of HIV and transmission of HIV among Aboriginal populations by 50 per cent
  • reduce the average time between HIV infection and diagnosis from 4½ years to 1½ years

Dr Chant urged the public to adopt safe practices such as always using a condom and never sharing needles, as the best preventions against contracting HIV and other sexually transmissible infections.

“We are encouraging people to get tested regularly to ensure early detection. Free and confidential testing is available from your GP or local sexual health clinic.

“If you have HIV, starting treatment early has significant individual benefits as well as helping prevent transmission to others” Dr Chant said.

HIV breaks down the immune system’s ability to fight disease and infections. Treatment for HIV, using antiretroviral drugs, controls the virus and limits the amount of damage it can do.

For free and confidential sexual health support and information, call the NSW Sexual Health Infoline on 1800 451 624 (Mon - Fri 9am-5.30pm).

For further information about HIV in NSW visit: http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/endinghiv​​