THE NSW Department of Health released encouraging news about the level of HIV infection rates across the state last week, with their year-on-year indicator showing that the number of infections in 2013 was less than what was experienced in 2012.

The report also indicated a significant rise in the number of tests being undertaken across NSW, as new testing facilities and new online resources have become available.

The NSW 2013 Annual HIV Data Report shows that 357 new cases of HIV were diagnosed in NSW throughout 2013, which is a decrease of 13 per cent on the five-year high that was experienced in 2012.

According to the statistics provided within the report, 278 of those cases were from sexual encounters involving gay and bisexual men, which is a decrease of 16 per cent on 2012 infection rates.

Significant decreases were also recorded among people in the 20-29 age bracket (16 per cent) and the 30-39 age bracket (31 per cent) as well.

NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner told the Star Observer last week that it was heartening to see new resources contributing towards the fight against HIV and that while there was likely to be an uptick in newly-reported cases as these resources continue to come online, they would fall again in the short-to-medium term as a result.

“Our investment in the NSW HIV Strategy has helped remove barriers to testing for high risk groups, made testing quicker and more accessible than ever and allowed quicker access to treatment,” Skinner said in a statement.

“Early detection means early treatment, which we know improves the outcomes for individuals and is key to our aim of virtually eliminating the spread of HIV by 2020.”

While there was a decrease in the overall number of infections throughout 2013, the report also indicated that there had been a rise in the number of people who are over 50 and have become HIV-positive since 2010.

In 2010 approximately 10 per cent of all new infections came from the 50-plus age demographic, but the latest report shows that this has risen to approximately 18 per cent of all new infections as of 2013.

In a statement to the Star Observer, NSW Health stated that while this was an area of concern, they have already implemented programs with community groups such as ACON in order to fight HIV in this particular demographic and are also supporting the specific needs of newly infected people who are over 50, as well.

NSW Health also stated that campaigns such as ACON’s Ending HIV and their pop-up testing facilities during Mardi Gras had a profound influence upon the level of HIV infection rates in NSW, as have programs run by ACON throughout the past 12 months.

“We are very pleased with the community response to “Ending HIV” to date. We want to reinforce the key message that together we can bring the HIV epidemic to an end by increasing HIV testing, encouraging people with HIV seek treatment and by strengthening the culture of safe sex and safer injecting in the community,” the department said.

ACON themselves have also welcomed the newly-released data, but highlighted that the information needed to be interpreted cautiously as efforts continued to end HIV transmission in NSW by 2020.

For further information on testing facilities and HIV resources within NSW, contact ACON on 1800 063 060.

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