John MikelsonsHealth experts and LGBTI peak body representatives have called for urgent action after new statistics revealed HIV diagnoses in Queensland have increased at a rate far above the national average.

261 new cases of HIV were recorded in Queensland in 2012, up from 223 in 2011 – a rise of 17 percent, far above even the concerning 10 percent spike recorded nationally over the same period.

Queensland Association for Healthy Communities (QAHC) executive director John Mikelsons said he believes that a greater focus on the LGBTI community, specifically aimed at men who have sex with men – where 70 per cent of new notifications originated – is greatly required.

“We know from the research and evidence that a response led by the affected communities is critical to turning around HIV infection rates,” Mikelsons said.

QAHC Director of Sexual Health Michael Scott urged caution when interpreting the figures released at the conference.

“It is important to remember that these are figures from one year, and we need to be cautious about drawing conclusions based on one set of figures. We are interested in trends in notifications. When we look at the Queensland and national trends, both are increasing steadily,” Michael Scott told the Star Observer.

Scott praised a recent government campaign that focused on the entire Queensland population but said that a targeted message is the best means to tackle the issue within the LGBTI community.

“Whilst a whole of population approach may be good at engaging with a wide range of people, it is not effective for engagement with gay men and MSM.

“This is because we (gay men/MSM) have been bombarded with safe sex messages for nearly 30 years. It is important to recognise that most gay men/MSM use condoms most of the time, and we need to work with not only this group of men, but also the group who don’t use condoms every time, recognising that some of these men are making informed decisions about their sexual health,” Scott said.

QAHC and the Queensland Health Department are continuing to push their messages regarding safe sex and regular condom use and in light of recent developments with HIV/AIDS testing and awareness, are also urging people to use rapid testing where results can be found out within 30 minutes.

Free and community run and operated rapid testing along with other STI tests are offered by QAHC every Tuesday evening at 30 Helen St, Newstead. Rapid testing is also being rolled out state wide by the health department at participating sexual health clinics and doctors.

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