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Australias HIV diagnoses hit seven year low

first_img Source:https://kirby.unsw.edu.au/news/hiv-diagnoses-hit-seven-year-low-australias-annual-hiv-figures-released-today and https://kirby.unsw.edu.au/sites/default/files/kirby/report/supplHIV2018_content_20180920r.pdf By Dr. Ananya Mandal, MDSep 23 2018According to latest numbers from the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), the rates of HIV are on the rise among heterosexuals in Australia.The report states that nearly half of all the individuals diagnosed with this disease are unaware that they are living with the virus for four years or more. This lack of awareness could provide a clue to spread of the virus among the population. The new report says that there has been a drop in the number of people diagnosed with HIV to a seven year low number at 963 new cases in 2017. However the rise of HIV diagnosis among heterosexual individuals has risen by 10 percent over the last five years as seen in 2017. For example a total of 238 cases of HIV were diagnosed among heterosexual individuals last year and of these 145 (61 percent) were among males. Of these 48 percent of the cases had lived unaware with the virus for four or more years. The HIV numbers have dropped by 15 percent among homosexual and bisexual men in 2017. Further the number of cases among the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has increased significantly with present rates being double of the other general population, says the report.Professor Rebecca Guy from the Kirby Institute called these numbers “concerning”. She said in a statement to the press, “Being diagnosed late with HIV can affect a person’s immune system and their health and they also may pass the infection unknowingly to someone else.” She explained that earlier HIV testing for primarily focussed on homosexual and bisexual men as were the prevention strategies. The number of heterosexual people living with HIV was diagnosed less frequently as they skipped the radar, she said.Related StoriesAlcohol reduction associated with improved viral suppression in women living with HIVHIV persists in spinal fluid even after long-term treatment and is linked to cognitive deficitsEven when HIV prevention drug is covered, other costs block treatmentAssociate Professor Limin Mao, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Social Research in Health at UNSW agreed with this concept saying that only homosexual and bisexual men and injectable drug users are tested routinely. The stigma against the disease prevents the general population from getting tested routinely. A survey was conducted among 1000 Australians and it was seen that half of the individuals had a negative attitude towards people with HIV and 6 in 10 felt they would not want an HIV positive person to be their roommate.Associate Professor James Ward, head of Aboriginal Health Infectious Diseases, South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) also pointed out about the rise in the cases of HIV infection among the Aboriginal population. He said that these outbreaks have put an “enormous strain” on the health services provided locally. He called for more rapid testing, treatment as well as Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent spread of the infection. He called for wider and far reaching campaigns for prevention of spread of this infection.While the numbers remain a concern, the earlier “Grim Reaper” depiction of HIV is not necessary says Adjunct Associate Professor Darryl O’Donnell and CEO of Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO). He says, this would increase the stigma around the disease. “It’s not our role to make people afraid of sex – we don’t want people to fear HIV… The important thing is to really make it a lot easier for everyone to be comfortable to ask for a test and to be offered a test if they think they might have been at risk,” he said. He urged doctors to make their at-risk patients comfortable enough to ask for HIV test. He called for national policies and reinvestment in both prevention measures against HIV as well as routine diagnosis, screening and treatment of the cases.The full report will be released from the Kirby Institute in November.center_img New HIV diagnoses in Australia, 1984–2017, by sexlast_img read more