HIV, Heterosexuals and NSW

Rates of HIV diagnosis in heterosexual men and women not yet declining in NSW

In NSW, as in the rest of Australia, the population most affected by HIV are gay and bisexual men. Rates of HIV amongst people who inject drugs and sex workers remain very low because of the early introduction of harm reduction strategies such as needle and syringe program and peer education.

HIV diagnoses related to heterosexual sex have remained at around 15 % of the total diagnoses in NSW.

In NSW rates of diagnosis of men who have sex with men have decreased considerably, whereas heterosexual rates have not. In January to June 2017, 36 of 144 (25%) people newly diagnosed reported heterosexual acquisition of HIV, which was 46% greater than the average number of new diagnoses in heterosexuals in January to June of 2011-2016 (n=24.7). Of the 36 heterosexuals, 24 were men and 12 were women.

Unfortunately this population also has had very high rates of late diagnosis. Late diagnosis is defined as when someone is diagnosed quite a few years after they actually contracted HIV and therefore their immune system is affected and their CD4 levels are low. In NSW people who are diagnosed with a CD4 count below 350 are considered to be a late diagnosis. Heterosexual men and women are usually diagnosed late because the person and/or their doctor did not consider HIV a possibility. Some newly diagnosed men and women have told Pozhet that they were offered a test by a GP but because they did not understand why they might have contracted HIV, refused the test.
For many heterosexual men and women, it is only when they become ill and present at Emergency Departments or to clinics that they are eventually tested for HIV.

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