23 November 2018

New HIV cases hit 10 year low Western Australia

The number of new HIV cases reported in Western Australia continues to decline, with overall notifications down by 26 per cent on last year.

The biggest decrease in notifications is among men who have sex with men with 31 new cases reported, which is 42 per cent lower than the same period last year. However, the number of new cases acquired heterosexually remains steady at 30, most of which were contracted by men visiting South-East Asia.

The Director for Communicable Disease Control, Dr Paul Armstrong, attributes the decline to a number of strategies including access to pre-exposure prophylaxis medications (PrEP) to prevent the HIV infection from developing, improved testing programs to target people at risk of acquiring the disease, and high treatment rates for those with HIV.

While PrEP protects a person from HIV transmission, it does not prevent against other sexually transmitted infections. Condoms should be used with casual or regular partners.

“The increasing use of digital media has allowed us to target our safe sex campaigns to where they are needed, ensuring Western Australians have ready access to high quality information about needle and syringe programs, condom use and testing clinics at the touch of a button,” Dr Armstrong said.

“By encouraging regular HIV testing, we are able to ensure that those diagnosed with the disease are quickly linked to specialist services to ensure they receive fast and effective treatment and don’t transmit the disease to others.”

Of concern, are the mostly male travellers who continue to practise unsafe sex in countries where there is a high prevalence of HIV.

‘It is important that sexually active gay men, bisexual men and men who have sex with men, ensure that HIV and STI testing forms part of their routine health check, and that they always practise safe sex, whether at home in Western Australia or when travelling overseas,” Dr Armstrong said.

HIV can be easily managed with daily treatment, often just a single tablet, which ensures that people living with HIV live a near-normal life span. Regular use of the tablets can render the HIV virus undetectable in the bloodstream, ensuring it cannot be sexually transmitted to others.

To learn more about HIV, visit HealthyWA (external site) or the WA AIDS Council (external site).


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