An Increase in Overseas Acquired HIV Infections Among Heterosexual People in Western Australia

A recent increase in the number of heterosexually acquired HIV infections among non-Aboriginal persons has been noted in Western Australia (WA) but not in other jurisdictions of the country, the authors wrote. In this study, they set out to describe the epidemiological features of this increase.

Newly diagnosed HIV infections among non-Aboriginal WA residents reported to the Department of Health from 2002 to 2006 were the subject of a descriptive analysis. Outcomes included demographics, exposure categories, and place of HIV acquisition.

In all, 258 new HIV diagnoses were reported among non-Aboriginal WA residents during the period. The number of reports rose from 41 in 2002 (2.2 cases per 100,000 population) to 66 cases in 2006 (3.4 cases per 100,000 population).

Forty-two percent (n=107) of the cases were acquired heterosexually; these cases increased from 12 in 2002 to 36 in 2006. Males accounted for 64 (60 percent) heterosexually acquired cases; females accounted for 43 (40 percent). Most (89 percent) of the male cases acquired HIV overseas, usually in countries other than their region of birth. Southeast Asia was the most common place of reported HIV acquisition for males. Fifty-six percent of the female cases acquired HIV overseas, chiefly in their region of birth (83 percent). For females, sub-Saharan Africa was the most common place of HIV acquisition.

"There has been a recent increase in heterosexually acquired HIV infections among male and female WA residents, many of whom reported acquiring HIV overseas," the authors concluded. "Safe sex campaigns in WA should continue to reinforce safe sex messages among people traveling overseas."