March 11, 2011
Last year 149 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in New Zealand, including 90 gay and bisexual men, according to data from the AIDS Epidemiology Group at the University of Otago.
The mode of infection is still unknown for 23 cases. However, if just a few of these cases are men who have sex with men, 2010 would set a record high for HIV cases among MSM -- up from 93 in 2008. In contrast, the 35 heterosexually acquired cases last year represent a record low.
An AIDS diagnosis was made for 39 people last year, including 25 infected homosexually, 11 heterosexually, one by injection drug use, and two by unknown means.
The situation has never been worse for New Zealand's gay community, said Shaun Robinson, director of New Zealand AIDS Foundation. "Not even in the early days of AIDS in the 1980s were rates of infection this bad in New Zealand," he said, estimating about 15 of the unknown-cause cases to be MSM.
"These men may have had HIV and been sexually active for a long time before they were diagnosed, which means they missed out on treatment and were also likely to be more infectious," Robinson said. "This situation could have been avoided by regular testing."
Robinson urged MSM to use condoms and test regularly: "We will be increasing our efforts to make this a widespread community norm."