Increase in HIV diagnoses among heterosexuals

Hiv Blog

Australian HIV specialists say that although HIV diagnoses have dropped among gay and bisexual men, new data signals a worrying increase among heterosexual people.

There were just 963 new HIV diagnoses across Australia in 2017, the lowest number since 2010, according to data from the Kirby Institute.

But the report, presented on Monday at the Australasian HIV & AIDS conference in Sydney, found one-quarter of these diagnoses were in heterosexual people - a 10% increase in this group in the past five years.

The Kirby Institute’s Professor Rebecca Guy said that while the 15% drop in diagnoses among gay and bisexual men in the past year alone was pleasing, the figures among heterosexual people was cause for concern.

“Almost half the diagnoses in this population are late, which means that the person has been living with HIV for four years or more without knowing,” she said, which indicated a need for increased testing among this group.

“The most important point here is we’re not seeing a decline and this really emphasises the need for further strategies.”

HIV diagnosis rates in the Indigenous population were also nearly twice those of the non-Indigenous population, the researchers noted.

Associate Professor James Ward, from the SA Health & Medical Research Institute, warned that if new campaigns did not target testing, treatment and pre-exposure prophylaxis for this community, the gap would widen further.

Adjunct Associate Professor Darryl O'Donnell, CEO of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations, said stigma still played a large part in heterosexual people requesting - and GPs offering — an HIV screening test.

GPs might fear offending or insulting a patient by offering the test, he said.

“Stigma is the really important thing here, whether [for] those who recognise themselves to be at risk or whether we’re talking about people from the heterosexual population,” he said.

“The important thing is making it easier for them to be comfortable to ask for a test or for GPs to offer a test.”


Read the Kirby Institute 2018 Annual surveillance short report for further information.


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