New diagnoses of HIV cases in Victoria have dropped slightly, however rates are still high, with two new HIV diagnosis in the state recorded every three days.

National HIV surveillance data from the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research (NCHECR) shows the rate of new HIV diagnoses in Victoria has dropped from a peak of 5.5 new diagnoses per 100,000 people in 2006 to 5.2 in 2009.

Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre executive director Mike Kennedy said the decrease was promising, but more work needed to be done.

“The challenge now is, what do we do to drive it down rather than just stop [rates] going up,” he told Southern Star Observer.

“What we think is probably driving a lot of this epidemic is people who are newly infected, have extremely high viral loads and therefore a very high likelihood to pass on their infection to someone else if they’re having unprotected sex or sharing injecting equipment.”

Kennedy said it was critical people were tested regularly so they were aware of their HIV status.
Latest figures show a “modest” increase in unsafe sexual behaviour in Melbourne between 2005 and 2009.

“What people are saying is they are sometimes having sex without condoms, what we’re saying is you need to think about those times and you need to be doing some assessment of HIV risk, because while the numbers have leveled out there’re still relatively high when you look at the trend line over time,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy said breakthroughs in rapid testing for HIV could form part of the answer.

“Gay men, certainly whenever they’ve been asked, find [rapid testing] a very attractive proposition,” he said.

“One of the reasons people have given for not testing more regularly is the inconvenience of having to make a medical appointment, get to the clinic, get tested, come back again for the results … instead of getting a test result in 20 minutes or so.

“Rapid testing is one of the things that we think will improve testing rates.”

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