Rates of HIV infection in Victoria have risen again, government figures released this week reveal.

The new figures from the Victorian Department of Human Services show 234 new diagnoses of HIV in Victoria during 2002: a seven percent rise on the 218 new notifications recorded in 2001.

This represents the third annual increase in HIV notifications in Victoria -“ a sobering reminder, said the Victorian AIDS Council (VAC), that the HIV/AIDS epidemic is not over.

The Victorian government needs to respond urgently to these figures, and work with the rest of the HIV partnership to expand our prevention and testing efforts, VAC’s executive director Mike Kennedy said.

The 234 new HIV diagnoses in Victoria during 2002 comprise 209 men, 23 women and two transgender people. An increasing number of these cases arise from male-to-male sex: 162 in 2002, up from 146 in 2001.

Extra government funds allocated to the HIV response after the notification rises in 2000 had all been spent and more funds were much needed in the sector, Kennedy warned.

It was a cause for concern that over 40 percent of the men who tested HIV-positive during 2002 had never previously had an HIV test, Kennedy said.

An education campaign designed to encourage people to get tested for HIV was submitted to the Department in November but there was still no indication as to whether the campaign would be funded, he added.

VAC, like other organisations in the HIV sector, is rapidly reaching a crisis point where it can no longer deliver the same level of services as its funding base continues to erode, Kennedy said. The government must accept that successive governments have allowed community-based HIV services to run down over several years, and that gearing up to respond to these increases in HIV infections will require additional resources beyond the one-off input in 2001, he said.

Data concerning new HIV infections in New South Wales is expected to be released within the next few weeks.

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