INDEPENDENT NEWS

New Local HIV Numbers Show That Continued Investment Is Needed To Reach The Elimination Goal

Published: Thu 9 May 2024 10:43 AM
The 2023 HIV and AIDS notification data from the University of Otago AIDS Epidemiology group, showed that 65 gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) were first diagnosed in Aotearoa New Zealand.
In 2023, there were 43 MSM who acquired HIV in New Zealand, which is a slight increase from the last two years but continues the overall downward trend since the peak of 97 locally acquired notifications in 2016.
Burnett Foundation Aotearoa Chief Executive Joe Rich says the general downward trend is promising, but continued resourcing is needed to meet the 2030 goal outlined in the National HIV Action Plan.
“We have an ambitious goal of being the first country in the world with no new local HIV transmissions and that is only possible with continued investment so at-risk communities can continue to access testing, prevention methods, and treatment for people living with HIV,” says Mr. Rich.
Of the 43 MSM with locally acquired HIV, 19 or 44% were diagnosed within about 14 months following infection. This could indicate that recent social marketing campaigns and community outreach, to increase testing numbers, funded by the HIV Action Plan, are reaching those at risk of HIV.
“Early diagnosis and access to treatment leads to better health outcomes and helps prevent further transmission.”
A new research brief out of Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland, Trends in combination HIV prevention and HIV testing 2002-2022, showed that amongst the MSM surveyed, the proportion of participants using self-tests at home and rapid HIV tests at events has increased from 7.5% in 2014 to 23.4% in 2022.
However, about 35% of MSM with locally acquired HIV had CD4 counts of less than 350, indicating a late diagnosis and that these individuals have been living with undiagnosed HIV for some time. There were also fourteen people diagnosed with AIDS and six deaths from AIDS in 2023.
“It’s concerning to be seeing a significant number of late diagnoses. It’s important our communities are in regular systems of testing for HIV and other STIs suitable to their sexual needs,” says Mr. Rich.
“The National HIV Action Plan has a goal for both local transmissions and AIDS-related deaths to be zero by 2030. As well as ensuring that people living with HIV have healthy lives free from stigma and discrimination.”
There was a notable increase in people living in New Zealand who were first diagnosed with HIV overseas.
Mr. Rich says that this is possibly a result of successful advocacy work to remove discriminatory policies on migrants living with HIV coming into New Zealand and an overall increase in immigration to New Zealand (people living with HIV were less than 0.1% of migrant arrivals in 2023).
“Aotearoa is leading the world by making it clear that we are welcoming home for all migrants, regardless of HIV status,” says Mr. Rich.
Living with HIV is a manageable condition for most Kiwis in 2024. People living with HIV who are on effective treatment, with an undetectable viral load, have zero chance of passing on HIV to their sexual partners.
Burnett Foundation Aotearoa, along with other organisations in the sector, provides a range of support services and information. Anyone can visit our website or contact us to discuss how we can best support them.

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