Statistics released by the Kirby Institute today show that the rate of HIV diagnoses has dropped to a seven-year low, although indicated concern with a 10% rise among heterosexual people over the five years to 2017.
The key finding in the report indicate that:
- There were 963 new HIV diagnoses in 2017, showing a 7% decline over five years and the lowest number of new diagnoses in seven years.
- Researchers attributed the decline to more people being tested, more people living with HIV starting treatment and an increased use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
- Reductions were greatest among gay and bisexual men, with a 15% reduction in the past year alone.
- Gay and bisexual men continue to represent the highest proportion of new HIV diagnoses in Australia, accounting for almost two-thirds of all infections.
- HIV diagnosis rates remain almost two times higher in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations and have been increasing over the past five years.
HIV experts say the rise in HIV rates is partly due to a lack of awareness, but warn against returning to scare-tactic advertising like the historic Grim Reaper advertising campaign from the 1980s.
Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations chief executive Darryl O’Donnell warns a return to “Grim Reaper-style” advertising would only increase stigma.
“It’s not our role to make people afraid of sex – we don’t want people to fear HIV,” he said.
“The important thing is to really make it a lot easier for everyone to be comfortable to ask for a test and to be offered a test if they think they might have been at risk.”