Victoria has seen a 13 percent drop in HIV notifications, Health Department figures show.

The latest data from the Victorian Infectious Diseases Bulletin show 228 new HIV diagnoses in 2010, compared with 262 in 2009.
Outgoing Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre executive director Mike Kennedy welcomed the results.

“When you look at the [new HIV diagnoses] graph in the report, it’s been pretty flatline for a few years now and flat at a higher level than it has been in the 1990s,” Kennedy told the Star Observer.

“The fact it’s now going down and syphilis is going down as well is good news.”

Kennedy said the exact reasons for the drop are not clear, but a greater investment by governments over the last decade has helped.

“We’ve always been very careful [not to] make too much of what happens from year to year because epidemics, and particularly this epidemic, have the capacity to be reasonably volatile,” Kennedy said.

“I don’t think we’ll be ever really able to fully unpack why [HIV rates] went up in the early 2000s and mid-2000s and why they’re going down now, but when we look at the indicators there are certain things we can point to.

“With that sustained [funding] effort we’ve been able to do more work that’s more appropriately targeted and the level of community conversation about HIV and STIs has gone up, so that then gets it on people’s radar.”

The yearly results also showed a slight increase in the proportion of new diagnoses in men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM) at 84 percent in 2010 compared to 80 percent in 2009, however the number of HIV notifications in MSM actually dropped from 193 in 2009 to 174 in 2010.

A drop was recorded in the number of younger men diagnosed with HIV, from 71 in 2009 to 51 in 2010 in the 20-29 age group.

The median age of MSM diagnosed with HIV also slightly increased from 35.9 years in 2009 to 36.1 years in 2010.

The figures also show a 32 percent drop in overall syphilis rates, from 267 in 2010 compared with 391 in 2009. Most of the syphilis cases were in MSM.

Kennedy said syphilis testing rates had increased to their highest level and were proving effective.

He said the VAC will continue to call for the community to test regularly and use safer sex practices.

UPDATED July 7

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