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The latest annual HIV statistics report shows that 184 people were diagnosed with HIV infection last year, the highest number of diagnoses ever in New Zealand.
“This is an alarming increase, which must motivate us all to look critically at the reasons why the rate of HIV infections continue to rise” said Mrs Turia. Much of the 2008 increase has been due to the relatively high level of infection occurring amongst men who have sex with other men. Overall, the rate of HIV infections through homosexual contact continues to be higher than that through heterosexual contact. Last year, about 70% of HIV infections that occurred in New Zealand were diagnosed amongst men having sex with other men. Rising rates of infections through homosexual contact have also been observed in Australia, Canada, the United States and Western European countries in recent years.
“I understand that other data analysis by the AIDS Epidemiology Group shows that in the data for men who have sex with men, there is a disproportionate rate of Maori and Pasifika men presenting as “late testers” than European men” said Mrs Turia. The rate for Maori ‘late testers’ was 40.6%; for Pacific 28.6% and for European 21.1%.
“This data is hugely concerning, and I will be asking officials to provide me with more information about these trends, as a matter of some urgency” said Mrs Turia.
“For infections that occur in New Zealand, compared to New Zealand European women, women of ‘other’ ethnic groups, Pasifika and Maori women also appear to be at greater risk when we analyse the rise in diagnosis rate”.
"The Government has been working over the years with several organisations to reduce the incidence of HIV/AIDS," Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia said. She cited the fact that the Ministry has been funding the New Zealand AIDS Foundation since 1985 to develop and implement initiatives to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS in high-risk populations, particularly men having sex with other men.
“A critical aspect in addressing HIV prevention, must be having effective health promotion programmes amongst key target populations," she added. The number of people diagnosed with HIV has fluctuated over the past four years - 2005 (183 people), 2006 (177), 2007 (156) and 2008 (184). Detailed information on these trends is available in the latest issue of AIDS - New Zealand newsletter published by the AIDS Epidemiology Group of the University of Otago. The annual statistics report also showed that most people who acquired the infection through heterosexual contact were infected overseas. The prevalence of HIV infection in the New Zealand population is very low compared to other countries.
From 1985 to 2008, some 3000 people have been diagnosed with HIV and about a thousand are recorded to have developed AIDS.
Background: The Ministry of Health contracts for a range of HIV and AIDS-related services, including health promotion and promotion of responsible sexual behaviour to minimise the incidence of HIV and AIDS, prevention and awareness activities, surveillance services, programmes for refugees and new immigrants and independent HIV confirmatory testing services. In 2007, the Ministry accepted the recommendations from its AIDS Medical and Technical Advisory Committee with regard to HIV testing of adults in health care settings. These recommendations are broadly supported by professional bodies and the NZ AIDS Foundation.
Early diagnosis enables people to gain the benefits of early treatment and adopt safe sex practices. This also helps control the spread of HIV infection. The Ministry also funds several organisations providing specialised programmes targeted at specific communities: