NSW has recorded it’s lowest number of new HIV infection in three years according to data released by NSW Health this morning.

According to the figures, there were 305 new HIV infections in NSW in 2010 compared to 329 in 2009 and 324 in 2008.

Gay men accounted for 75 percent of the new infections, with heterosexuals and injecting drug users making up the remainder.

Acting Associate Director of NSW Health’s AIDS and Infectious Diseases branch, Darryl O’Donnell, welcomed the stability in HIV rates.

“NSW Health is committed to achieving an ongoing decline in annual HIV notifications,” he said.

“Regular HIV testing, particularly for those who have a higher risk of contracting HIV such as sexually active gay men, raises awareness about risks, enables early diagnosis and treatment of people who are infected, and helps prevent further transmission.”

O’Donnell said because of the higher risk of transmission, it is recommended that men who have sex with men be tested for HIV and STIs at least once a year if they have had sex with a man in the past 12 months, and every 3-6 months if they are having unprotected sex or sex with more than one partner.

According to the data, many newly infected cases had not been getting regular HIV testing. Of the gay men who were diagnosed with HIV last year, only 39 percent had been to have a test within the twelve months before their diagnosis.

In contrast, according to the Sydney Gay Community Periodic Survey from February 2011, 72 percent of HIV negative gay men who responded to the survey had been tested within the previous 12 months.

“NSW continues to promote safe sexual health messages, and it is thanks to the dedicated work of the community and health professionals over many years that has led us to these stable rates of HIV notifications,” O’Donnell said.

“NSW is acknowledged internationally as a leader in HIV education and preventative health measures, as well as providing access to quality support and treatment.”

ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill said the data continues the trend of overall stability in HIV notifications seen in NSW since the late 1990s.

“We know that NSW is one of very few places in the world that has not seen a resurgence in HIV notifications among gay men over the last decade or so and it’s a tribute to gay men in NSW that it continues to be the case,” he said.

“This is actually the lowest number of annual cases recorded among gay men in NSW since HIV testing began and we are committed to working with the NSW HIV prevention partnership and our community to ensure that stability turns into sustained decline.

“It’s the collective actions of gay men which will determine how quickly we get there and we will continue to provide the information gay men require to make informed decisions about pleasure and risk.”

In 2011 leaders of the NSW HIV response were invited by the Joint United Nations program on AIDS to help in strengthening prevention efforts in countries such as Canada, the UK, the USA as well as Australia.

Parkhill said it was still crucial all sexually active gay men test regularly for HIV and other sexually transmissible infections.

“We recommend that sexually active gay men get tested at least once a year and more often if they’ve been busy. Knowledge of your own status and that of the guy you’re with gives you control,” he said.

INFO: For referral to a GP or sexual health clinic, call the NSW Sexual Health Infoline on 1800 451 624. To view the data visit www.health.nsw.gov.au

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