High level of HIV diagnoses in New Zealand persists in 2015

May 24, 2016, University of Otago

224 people were diagnosed with HIV in New Zealand in 2015—a similarly high figure to last year—according to data released today by the AIDS Epidemiology Group based at the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine at the University of Otago.

Men who have sex with men (MSM) were the largest group affected. Of all those diagnosed 153 (68%) were MSM and 42 (19%) were heterosexually infected men and women. There were four people infected thorough injecting drug use, and one child was infected overseas having being been born to a woman with undiagnosed HIV. For most of the remainder the means of infection was not reported.

"Of particular concern is that the number of MSM diagnosed and infected in New Zealand continues at the high rate seen in 2014," says AIDS Epidemiology Group Director Associate Professor Nigel Dickson.

"While the number diagnosed each year will not necessarily reflect the number newly infected, for the past two years there has been a higher number of MSM being diagnosed with evidence of a relatively newly acquired infection, suggesting an increase in recent incidence in this group.

"This does not necessarily mean there has been more risk behaviour, as a rising prevalence resulting from ongoing new infections and longer survival could in itself drive a increase in incidence, even if behaviour is unchanged," Associate Professor Dickson says.

"While regular HIV testing of those at risk is important, people with HIV are most infectious to their sexual partners in the weeks and months after they have been infected, so continued condom use is essential both to prevent acquiring and spreading HIV even among those who last test was negative."

Associate Professor Dickson says the increasing number of infections in recent years suggests that all possible means of decreasing infection risk and spread should be considered.

"Internationally many countries now fund antiretroviral treatment for all people with HIV—whatever their level of immune deficiency—to reduce their infectivity. Some are even considering providing such treatment to high-risk uninfected people, which trials have shown effective in reducing the risk of acquiring HIV."

Of those and women diagnosed with heterosexually acquired HIV in 2015, about half were infected in New Zealand and half overseas. The number infected in New Zealand has been relatively stable over the past decade.

There was evidence of greater immunodeficiency among those heterosexually infected in this country than the equivalent MSM, suggesting more delay in their diagnoses, which could result in a worse outcome.

Associate Professor Dickson says that while the epidemic is focused on the gay and bisexual community, anyone sick with symptoms that could be due to HIV should be offered an HIV test whatever their sexual behaviour.

He adds: "It is also important that efforts are made to combat the stigma about HIV and the groups most affected, as when this exists testing could be discouraged, and people be less receptive to health promotion messages."

There were a small number of people infected in other ways in 2015. Four people were diagnosed who had been infected through injecting drug use; one child who had been infected overseas was diagnosed having being born to an HIV-infected woman.

Commenting on these, Associate Professor Dickson says New Zealand continues to have only a small number of HIV diagnoses among people who inject drugs thanks to New Zealand's early introduction of the Needle Exchange Programme.

"Nor are we now seeing children contracting HIV from their pregnant mothers in New Zealand as there is a national programme encouraging all pregnant women to be tested, and ensuring treatment to prevent mother to child transmission for those found to be infected."

Explore further: More testing, treatment could dramatically cut new HIV cases

More information: Dickson NP, Lee B, Foster T, Saxton P. The first 30 years of HIV in New Zealand: Review of the epidemiology. New Zealand Medical Journal, 2015; 128: 31-47

Related Stories

More testing, treatment could dramatically cut new HIV cases

January 8, 2016
(HealthDay)—As many as two-thirds of new HIV infections could be prevented in men having sex with men (MSM) if more men were tested for the virus, more were treated, and more who don't have HIV took medication to prevent ...

Gonorrhoea cases continue to rise in Norway

April 29, 2016
In Norway, the number of notified gonorrhoea cases are now the highest for 25 years. Reported cases of syphilis declined slightly but are still high compared to a few years ago, according to 2015 figures released by the Norwegian ...

New research reveals millions of those infected with HIV have never been diagnosed due to the fear of being tested

November 17, 2015
Academics from Royal Holloway, University of London, have carried out the largest global review of psychological barriers behind HIV testing and the factors that may influence people's decision to be tested. 

As many as 4 in 10 gay men have HIV in some Southern cities

May 17, 2016
Three out of every 10 gay or bisexual men in several cities in the U.S. South have been diagnosed with the AIDS virus, three times the national rate, according to a study about how common HIV infections are in metro areas.

HIV-infected patients more likely to lack cancer treatment

May 17, 2016
A new study finds HIV-infected patients with cancer in the United States appear to be less likely to receive cancer treatment, regardless of insurance and other existing health conditions. The study, by researchers at the ...

Eliminating HIV is possible; researchers explain how

May 10, 2016
Worldwide, about 35 million people are living with HIV. The World Health Organization and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS plan to use an approach called "treatment as prevention" to eliminate the global pandemic, ...

Recommended for you

Research reveals details of how HIV becomes infectious

November 13, 2018
HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, has been studied extensively ever since the AIDS epidemic was officially recognized by health professionals in the early 1980s.

Cellphone technology developed to detect HIV

November 9, 2018
The management of human immunodeficiency virus 1 (HIV), an autoimmune disorder that cripples the immune system by attacking healthy cells, remains a major global health challenge in developing countries that lack infrastructure ...

Long-term study shows that HIV-2 is deadlier than previously thought

November 8, 2018
A study published in The Lancet HIV shows that HIV-2 is more pathogenic than previously demonstrated. The new findings indicate that early treatment should be applied to all patients with HIV, not only to those with HIV-1.

Incarceration is likely to increase HIV and HCV transmission among people who inject drugs, new study finds

October 30, 2018
Injecting drug use, through the sharing of needles, syringes and other injecting equipment, is a primary route of transmission for both HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV), blood-borne infections that cause considerable morbidity ...

Long-acting injectable implant shows promise for HIV treatment and prevention

October 9, 2018
A persistent challenge in HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention is medication adherence – getting patients to take their medication as required to get the best results.

Scientists develop rapid test for diagnosing tuberculosis in people with HIV

October 8, 2018
An international team that includes Rutgers scientists has made significant progress in developing a urine diagnostic test that can quickly, easily and inexpensively identify tuberculosis infection in people also infected ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.