New HIV cases at alarming levels

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June 1, 2006


AUSTRALIA'S AIDS epidemic is not easing, with the number of annual HIV diagnoses reverting to the alarming levels of the early 1990s, a United Nations report has found.

The UNAIDS 2006 report, released yesterday, estimated 16,000 adults and children were living with HIV in Australia in 2005.

HIV diagnoses declined in the late 1990s but are rising again, with 820 new cases identified in 2004, the report said. Unprotected homosexual sex was largely responsible for the rise in new infections.

"While HIV infection levels remain low across Oceania, Australia's long-established AIDS epidemic is not dissipating," the report stated.

"Newly-acquired HIV infections, largely attributable to unprotected sex mostly between men, are increasing, which plausibly reflects a revival of sexual risk behaviour."

National HIV infection trends appeared to be similar among indigenous and non-indigenous people.

However, the report cited a recent study which revealed notifications among indigenous people in Western Australia increased between 1985 and 2002 and decreased for other groups.

Indigenous women were 18 times more likely to be HIV-positive than non-indigenous women, and three times more likely than non-indigenous men, it said. Unsafe drug injecting was responsible for one in every five HIV diagnoses in indigenous Australians, compared with 2 per cent for non-indigenous people.

"These trends underline the need to revamp prevention, diagnosis and treatment efforts so that they reach all at-risk and affected sections of the population," the report said.

The president of the National Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS, Gabe McCarthy, said the report was internationally embarrassing for Australia.



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