With almost half of all people diagnosed with HIV in the late stage of infection, NSW Health is marking HIV Awareness Week by urging those at risk to be regularly tested.
Not everyone is able to accurately determine their own risk status, so we recommend every sexually active person should have an annual HIV test even if in a stable relationship.
During HIV Awareness Week (November 23-30) and in the lead up to World AIDS Day on December 1, NSW Health is reminding people to test for HIV with various high quality HIV testing options now available.
In 2018-19, NSW Health is investing $21.9 million in services to strengthen HIV testing, treatment and prevention.
The Director of the Western Sydney Sexual Health Centre Professor David Lewis said NSW is on track to achieving its goal of virtually eliminating HIV transmission by 2020, with a 21 per cent drop in the number of new diagnoses in NSW.
“We want to see this downward trend continue and urge anyone at risk of HIV to ensure they are regularly tested,” Professor Lewis said.
“Once a person is diagnosed, they can start treatment early, improve their health and prevent the virus from being passed on to others.”
From January to June 2018, 131 NSW residents presented with a newly diagnosed HIV infection compared with 167 during the same period in 2013-2017, according to the NSW HIV Data Report.
“This reduction is due to more people seeking early testing and treatment, as well as the introduction of pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV (PrEP),” said Professor Lewis
PrEP, the use of medications to prevent HIV in those at highest risk of acquiring HIV in Western Sydney (specifically, men who have sex with other men); the drug used also used traditionally as part of a combination to treat HIV infection. It is available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
“The highly successful NSW Health EPIC-NSW trial made PrEP available to 9,414 people at high risk of acquiring HIV from 1 March 2016 to 30 April 2019.”
The data also shows that in the first half of 2018 there were 49 per cent fewer Australian-born men having sex with men diagnosed with early stage HIV infection, compared to the same period over the past five years.
“HIV is often diagnosed late in overseas-born men who have sex with men as well as heterosexual men who have sex overseas in high risk parts of the world. A late HIV diagnosis can lead to severe HIV-related illness, which may be avoided if men test regularly for HIV” said Professor Lewis.
For information on HIV testing, visit www.health.nsw.gov.au/hiv-test