New data for 2018 shows HIV notifications for New South Wales have fallen to the lowest level since surveillance began 35 years ago in 1984, but the Labor Party has cautioned that the state government’s claim that it would eliminate the disease by 2020 was “premature”.
New South Wales interim Labor leader Penny Sharpe and Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord welcomed the data, while calling on the Berejiklian Government to tailor education and social media campaigns to better engage with culturally and linguistically diverse men, as more than half of newly diagnosed cases last year were born overseas.
Secord said that while the data was reassuring, he felt the New South Wales Government’s August 2017 claims that HIV transmission would be virtually eliminated by 2020 was “premature”.
“New South Wales Labor provides its bipartisan support to the current approach, but would like to see the Berejiklian Government look at ways to get the message to overseas-born men,” Secord said.
Overall for 2018, only 278 New South Wales residents were notified to NSW Health with newly diagnosed HIV infection, 17 per cent fewer than the 2013–2017 average of 335.6 cases a year.
Of the 278 cases, 78 per cent were through men who have sex with men (MSM) and 19 per cent were reported to have had heterosexual exposure to HIV.
Forty-four per cent of the MSM cases were born in Australia and 56 per cent were born overseas.
New South Wales Labor congratulated ACON, NSW’s leading HIV prevention and support organisation, for its work in this area, and acknowledged the work of the previous O’Farrell-Baird Health Minister Jillian Skinner for her work in the field.
Health experts have attributed the New South Wales improvements to the high uptake in pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), the use of antiretroviral drugs traditionally used to treat HIV infection to prevent the infection of those at risk.
From 2016, PrEP was made available in a NSW Health trial to 9,477 people at risk of HIV, and in April last year it was listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.