Major reduction in numbers of people diagnosed with HIV

Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter is pleased that new results show a significant drop in the number of people diagnosed with HIV after increases for the previous five years.

Results out today from the AIDS Epidemiology Group, which is based at the University of Otago and funded by the Ministry of Health, showed the number diagnosed last year with HIV was 197, nearly 50 fewer people than the previous year and the fewest since 2013 in New Zealand.

“A major reduction in numbers of people diagnosed with HIV in New Zealand this year is great news,” Minister Genter said.

“While it’s too soon to say if this is the start of a downward trend, I want to congratulate the hard work by the New Zealand AIDS Foundation for its community prevention work in this important area of public health.

“The Government is committed to reducing HIV rates in New Zealand, and to reduce the stigma associated with HIV. HIV-infected individuals are now able to start treatment immediately on diagnosis.

“This March, PHARMAC started funding HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), a daily medication taken to reduce the risk of becoming infected with HIV, for people who are at high risk of contracting HIV infection. It’s expected that approximately 4000 people will meet the criteria for this treatment annually.

“Hopefully, these new measures, in addition to existing prevention methods, will help to ensure the numbers of people diagnosed with HIV in New Zealand continues to drop in coming years.

"However, other serious sexually-transmitted infections, such as syphilis and gonorrhoea, have continued to rise and the presence of any STI increases the risk of HIV transmission.

“Therefore, it’s vital that other measures, such as condom use, regular and early HIV and other STI testing, and screening and treating other sexually-transmitted infections, continue to ensure this decline in HIV is sustained in the long term, and that other STIs also continue to be managed effectively.

“I want to encourage all New Zealanders to continue to practice safe sex and to continue to encourage New Zealanders to get tested if they have been at risk,” Minister Genter said.

Background:

  • There were 2470 adults (2077 men and 393 women) and 21 children receiving subsidised antiretroviral therapy (ART) at the end of June 2017, which was 192 more adults and five more children than the previous year.
  • HIV was made a notifiable disease in January 2017 to better align with the risk to public health and cases need to be notified to the relevant Medical Officer of Health. AIDS was already notifiable but progress in treatments made HIV surveillance more relevant.
  • The number of HIV diagnoses has been collected since antibody testing first became available in New Zealand in 1985 by the AIDS Epidemiology Group.