HIV Cluster for Australian Businessmen on Work Trips
September 16, 2008
The Cairns Sexual Health Service is warning health experts and the public alike about a cluster of HIV cases among Australian businessman who travel abroad. CSHS will report to the Australasian Sexual Health Conference 2008 in Perth on Friday it has diagnosed HIV in six men in the past 10 months after "fly in, fly out" trips to Papua New Guinea (PNG).
"This small cluster could just be the beginning of a very large outbreak," said Dr. Darren Russell, director of CSHS.
The men, ages 47-66, were infected after having risky sex during business trips. Three of the men had female partners in Australia, none of whom has tested positive for the virus so far. PNG has the highest HIV incidence in the Pacific region, with around 2 percent of adults infected.
"Now we're seeing something new with these older, heterosexual Australian-based men with high disposable incomes putting themselves at incredible risk with unprotected sex, often after entertaining and drinking," said Russell.
"The take-home message for all men traveling abroad, particularly to countries like this, is to be more vigilant about using condoms, and they need to get themselves tested as soon as they get back to Australia," Russell said. This may be a challenge, he acknowledged, since many of the men are engaging in surreptitious liaisons they want to conceal from their regular sex partners.
Health experts said the cluster mirrors similar, "extremely alarming" spikes seen in the Northern Territory and Western Australia, where a mining boom has been blamed for a 68 percent increase in HIV infections among the state's heterosexual population in the last three years.
Australian Associated Press
9.16.2008; Tamara McLean
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.