11 September 2018

HIV transmission rates are continuing to fall, with the latest quarterly data showing a 27 per cent drop in newly diagnosed cases in NSW.

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said the results show the State is on track to achieving its goal of virtually eliminating HIV transmission by 2020.

“The data continues to show that efforts under the NSW HIV Strategy 2016-2020 to prevent the spread of HIV are having a significant and positive impact,” Dr Chant said.

“I’m also very pleased to see that 97 per cent of HIV-positive people who attended public clinics from April to June this year for HIV management then went on to receive treatment, which is only possible if a person is able to keep to a regime of daily medication.”

In 2018-19, NSW Health is investing $21.9 million in services to strengthen HIV testing, treatment and prevention.

NSW Health was notified of 60 new cases of HIV infection from April to June this year, down from the average of 82.4 cases for the same quarter from the past five years, according to the NSW HIV Strategy Data Report – Quarter 2.

There was a 24 per cent reduction in the number of newly diagnosed cases among men having sex with other men (MSM) and a 30 per cent decrease in heterosexual people.

The declining results coincide with a six per cent increase in the number of HIV tests compared with the same period last year, with 147,464 tests carried out in in the April-June quarter, compared with 138,592 last year.

However, there has been a 10 per cent rise from 60 to 66 in the number of overseas-born MSM newly diagnosed with HIV in the period from January to June 2018.

Despite improvements in access and testing, two-thirds of newly diagnosed MSM had also not had an HIV test in the 12 months prior to diagnosis.

NSW Health is working with key partners to provide a mix of innovative testing options as well as education and peer support in multiple languages to better engage overseas-born MSM in HIV prevention and testing services.

The highly successful NSW Health EPIC-NSW trial made PrEP available to 9,477 people at risk of HIV from 1 March 2016 to 30 April 2018. PrEP is now available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) following its listing on April 1, 2018.

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is the use of antiretroviral drugs traditionally used to treat HIV infection, to prevent the infection in those at high risk of the virus.

PBS listing has made the drug available to Australians at high or medium risk of HIV transmission from a community pharmacy, with a doctor’s prescription and standard co-payment.