Decline in number of people diagnosed with HIV in New Zealand

The number of people diagnosed with HIV in New Zealand continues to fall, according to figures released today by the University of Otago AIDS Epidemiology Group.

In 2021, of the 112 people who tested positive, 67 were first diagnosed in New Zealand, of whom 43 are believed to have contracted HIV locally.

The number of people diagnosed in New Zealand (67) has continued to decline since peaking at 195 in 2016, and represents a 51% drop from the annual average of 137 in the previous five years (2016 to 2020) .

The number of people diagnosed in New Zealand in 2021 is the lowest since the late 1990s.

Dr Sue McAllister, head of the AIDS epidemiology group, says the results are very encouraging.

“The decline is likely due to the combined prevention measures of condom use, access to pre-exposure prophylaxis and early testing and treatment, as well as the impact of continued restrictions in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It will be important to continue to monitor these numbers as restrictions are lifted.”

Gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) are the group most affected by HIV in New Zealand. Of the 67 people diagnosed in New Zealand in 2021, 41 were MSM, 20 were heterosexually acquired (10 men and 10 women) and six people probably acquired HIV through injection drug use.

“It is particularly encouraging to see the continued decline of MSM believed to have contracted HIV in New Zealand, down 43% from the previous year and the lowest number since 2001,” says Dr McAllister.

“We want to continue to see these declining numbers, so it’s important to continue to focus on prevention, especially as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.”

Among heterosexual men and women, the numbers have remained low and relatively stable over the past 10 years. However, about half of these men and women are diagnosed with HIV late and have not received antiretroviral treatment to control the progression of their infection.

“It is important that people who believe they may be at risk are tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, regardless of their sexual orientation, and that clinicians recognize HIV as a possibility in people who show signs. compatible clinics.

A Department of Health spokesperson says the continued decline in HIV notifications in New Zealand is encouraging.

“With only 43 infections occurring in New Zealand in 2021, we are making good progress towards meeting international targets to eliminate local transmission of HIV. Decreasing infections, especially among men who have sex with men living in New Zealand, is a big step towards health equity.

“The sustained trend of decreasing HIV infection is only possible because of the dedicated and compassionate work of community organizations and clinicians to both prevent HIV infection and support people living with HIV. .

Note: The AIDS Epidemiology Group is based in the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago. It is funded by the Department of Health to undertake epidemiological surveillance of HIV infection and AIDS in New Zealand.

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