Monday, October 18, 2010

HIV rate rising due to complacency, anti-retroviral drugs, immigration

AUSTRALIA has reported its highest number of new HIV infections in almost 20 years, but cases of infectious syphilis, gonorrhoea and hepatitis have dropped, leading experts to conclude the safe sex message is getting through.
About 1050 new cases of HIV were reported last year, a level not reached since 1993. The numbers had remained relatively stable for four years, giving researchers hope that the disease was being restrained.

''There will always be people who have missed the key message, or don't remember the awful days when all their friends died, but the majority of people have embraced [safe sex],'' said Edwina Wright, the vice-president of the Australasian Society of HIV Medicine.

Two-thirds of new cases were in men who had sex with men but a growing number of those diagnosed were heterosexual men and women, predominantly from countries where the disease is rife.

''The reality is the figures have plateaued,'' Dr Wright said. ''Of course, we'd like to see only 500 people or less being diagnosed each year, but it is clear the education campaigns have worked.''

David Wilson, from the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research, agreed, saying HIV research and education campaigns had been victims of their own success.

He said the success of anti-retroviral drugs could also have made the disease less frightening to younger men.

''It is still a life-altering diagnoses but it is not the death sentence it once was, if it is treated, so perhaps people are not as fearful.''

''We can help people live relatively normal life expectancies if they stick to a drug regime, but that means they are around to spread the virus to others for decades.''

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