HIV rates in Australia up fifty percent in the past eight years

HIV rates in Australia have increased by almost fifty percent in the past eight years -- according to a national report compiled by University of New South Wales (UNSW) researchers.

Overall, the number of new HIV diagnoses in Australia has increased each year from 718 in 1999 to 1,051 in 2007.

Significantly, the report sheds light on migrants and returning expat Australians, by showing that in 2007, one in ten newly-reported infections in Australia were originally diagnosed overseas.

In common with other Western countries people born in sub-Saharan countries now resident in Australia have substantially higher rates of HIV/AIDS diagnosis than among Australian-born people, reflecting Africa as the epicentre of the global HIV epidemic.. Sixty percent of cases of infection attributed to heterosexual contact were in people from high prevalence countries or their sexual partners.

The findings are contained in the HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections in Australia Annual Surveillance Report, which has been prepared by researchers from UNSW's National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research (NCHECR) for the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing.

The report, which is one of two from UNSW to be released this week (Wednesday 17th September) at the Australasian Society for HIV Medicine's annual conference in Perth.

Other findings include:

  • Chlamydia continues to be the most frequently reported notifiable infectious disease in Australia, with 51 867 cases diagnosed in 2007, a 9% increase over the number diagnosed in 2006
  • The rate of diagnosis of infectious syphilis more than doubled from 3.1 in 2004 to 6.6 in 2007. These increases predominantly occurred among homosexual men.
  • The diagnosis of hepatitis C infection declined by 17 percent over the past five years to 58.8 per 100 000 population in 2007.
  • The estimated number of people living with HIV infection in Australia in 2007 was 16,692, including 11,928 in the age group 15 - 49 years.
  • Trends in new HIV diagnoses differed by State/Territory. New South Wales had a stable population rate at around 6.0 per 100,000 population and the rate in Queensland increased from 3.3 in 2003 to 4.6 in 2007. In Victoria, the rate of HIV diagnosis was stable in 2006 - 2007, after having steadily increased each year from 1999.

The second report, by UNSW researchers at the National Centre in HIV Social Research, the HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections in Australia Annual report of trends in behaviour 2008 shows that among those diagnosed with HIV infection across all states, about two-thirds are currently receiving treatment.

The report shows:

  • Men who have sex with men in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, report fewer casual sexual partnerships since 2003
  • Small but sustained increases in NSW and Victoria in the proportions of HIV-positive men that report engaging in unprotected anal intercourse with their HIV-negative regular partners - in the context of more discussion and disclosure.
  • The knowledge about sharing needles and the risk of hepatitis amongst young people attending music festivals is very high, but many fewer knew the risks associated with unsterile tattooing or body piercing.

CONTACT DETAILS: Professor John Kaldor, Deputy Director of UNSW's National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research 0414 295 546, Susi Hamilton, UNSW media unit, 9385 1583 or 0422 934 024, [email protected]

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