The latest figures, showing 317 residents newly diagnosed with HIV, are an encouraging sign of the progress being made toward the stateâ€™s ambitious goal of virtually eliminating HIV transmission by 2020, says NSW's Chief Health officer, Dr Kerry Chant.
As in New Zealand, NSW's HIV epidemic is primarily amongst men who have sex with men. However, despite several decades of safe-sex promotion a significant proportion of highly at-risk gay add bi men had never adopted a strong condom culture, unlike New Zealand where adherence to HIV use was remarkably prevalent.
Information released so far is light on details such as the cause of the dramatic drop in diagnoses which are evident even though the number of people tested annually for HIV has been pushed up by 21%.
The decrease comes two years after the Australian federal health department and several state health bodies including NSW acknowledged their low condom culture and emerging techniques using medical means to lower transmission rates. They adopted a more aggressive, multi-faceted and well-funded approach to HIV prevention, incorporating easier availability of funded Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), increased promotion of HIV testing and early anti-retroviral drug treatment of those diagnosed, as well as promoting condom use.
As part of this strategy NSW launched a landmark trial, Expanded PrEP Implementation in Community, becoming the first state in Australia to implement a rapid and large-scale trial of this new HIV prevention strategy.
"One year on, more than five thousand people at high risk of HIV infection are now being treated at 21 clinics across NSW," Dr Chant said.
In New Zealand health authorities are still requiring further data be researched before embracing PrEP more fully and government drug funding agency Pharmac says funding immediate access to HIV medications on diagnosis is not currently a sufficiently high priority to be funded.