There has been a 22 per cent drop in new cases of HIV in Victoria this year, according to data released by the state government’s department of health.

The 57 new cases of HIV reported between April and June has brought Victoria’s year-to-date total up to 130 cases, a 22 per cent decrease from the same period in 2017.

Minister for Health, Jill Hennessy, said the downward trend could be attributed to increased testing, treatment as prevention, and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

“We’re making headway as we strive towards a future without new HIV transmissions, but there’s more to do,” she said.

“Everyone can take steps towards staying safe in the bedroom, and everyone should talk openly with their partners without shame or stigma.”

PrEP—which was previously being accessed by more than 4,000 Victorians as part of a state government trial—was listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) earlier this year.

The $180 million dollar listing has allowed up to 32,000 patients to readily access the HIV prevention drug at an affordable price.

Thorne Harbour Health’s Director of Health Promotion, Policy, and Communications, Colin Batrouney, said the latest data indicates an increased uptake of PrEP.

“What I think is reflected in these figures is a combination of increased testing, which has been a particular emphasis of our work, the uptake of PrEP, and the fact that individuals living with HIV who have a sustained undetectable viral load (UVL) cannot pass the virus on,” he told the Star Observer.

“For this to continue we need to ensure that people have access to testing, treatment, and care, and that access to these services is made easier in the future.”

Batrouney added that improvements to Victoria’s sexual health sector are vital for the downward HIV rates to persist.

“We need improvements to our sexual health infrastructure because the system is under enormous pressure in Victoria,” he said.

“Along with additional dedicated sexual health centres, we need to make testing and the diagnoses and treatment of HIV and other STIs accessible, easy, and convenient if we are to sustain this encouraging trajectory.”

It is currently STI Testing Week. The theme this year is Talk, Test, Treat. For more information visit: betterhealth.vic.gov.au/STI

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