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New HIV Cases Among MSM Expected to Increase by Almost 75% in Australian State by 2015, Report Finds

March 4, 2008

New HIV cases among men who have sex with men are expected to increase by 73.5% by 2015 in the Australian state Victoria if current trends continue, according to a report released Monday by the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research, The Australian reports.

The report analyzed a 44% annual increase in the number of new HIV cases nationally among MSM. It found that the number of new HIV cases among MSM in Victoria increased by 96% between 1999 and 2006. New cases in Victoria among MSM likely will increase by another 73.5% by 2015, according to the report. The report predicted a 20% increase in new HIV cases among MSM in Queensland, which has reported a 68% increase in new cases among MSM since 1999. The report also found that new cases increased by 7.3% in New South Wales since 1999 (Cresswell, The Australian, 3/3). Despite the increase in New South Wales, the report predicted that the number of new cases among MSM in the state is expected to decrease by 12% by 2015. The number of new HIV cases nationwide will increase by 8.5% if current trends continue, according to the report (Medew, The Age, 3/3).

Nearly one in five MSM who were newly diagnosed with HIV contracted the virus from people in the early stages of infection, the report said (Alexander, Sydney Morning Herald, 3/3). In addition, the report found that one in three new cases were transmitted by men who did not know their HIV-positive status. About 13% of men nationwide are unaware they are living with HIV (AAP/Brisbane Times, 3/3).

Reduced condom use among MSM and an increase in other sexually transmitted infections, such as gonorrhea and syphilis, are contributing to the increase in HIV cases, according to David Wilson, lead author of the report and head of the infectious diseases modeling unit at NCHECR (The Australian, 3/3). Wilson added that early diagnosis and treatment of all STIs is necessary to reverse the trend (Sydney Morning Herald, 3/3).

Jonathan Anderson, president of the Australasian Society for HIV Medicine, said the Victorian state government plans to launch a new HIV prevention strategy in an attempt to reverse the prediction (The Australian, 3/3). The state government launched a $6.5 million HIV and STI action plan last year. The report was sent to government agencies and health departments nationwide, Wilson said (The Age, 3/3).

About 12,313 Australians were diagnosed with HIV between 1983 and 2006, according to a recent NCHECR survey. The number of new cases decreased by 30% in the 1990s and then increased between 2000 and 2006, the AAP/Times reports (AAP/Brisbane Times, 3/3).

Wilson said the report found that MSM in the country are complacent about the virus. "Our feeling is that HIV is now considered a manageable lifetime chronic disease and not the scary death threat it was many years ago when we didn't have treatment, so a lot of complacency has set in," he said.

Wilson added that the report provides a "good opportunity to intervene" in an effort to reduce the predicted increases. Michael Wooldridge, chief adviser on HIV for the federal government, said the report does not reflect efforts in the last year to prevent HIV, adding that it "shows what the price of failure would be" without prevention and education efforts (The Age, 3/3).

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