NSW is on track to eliminate the spread of HIV by 2025. This would make the state one of the first places on Earth to do so.

“What we are seeing in NSW is unique on a global scale,” said the head of HIV Epidemiology and Prevention Program at the UNSW Kirby Institute, Professor Andrew Grulich, in an interview with SMH. “NSW can provide the data that shows it can be done. It is now definitely within reach by 2025.”

Grulich credited the drop in the number of positive tests to “reduced risk-taking behaviour, a dip in testing and lower levels of sexual activity,” partly a result of  COVID-19 restrictions. NSW Health HIV surveillance data states that in 2021 there were 178 new HIV diagnoses. This amounts to a 36% drop compared to the prior five years.

The data also states that there was a one percent drop in testing in 2021 compared to 2020.

St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney welcomed the news, tweeting, “Such welcoming news. Really proud of the role St Vincent’s has played in reducing transmission rates of #HIV in NSW.” 

PrEP Use And Regular HIV Testing Crucial

While this is all promising news, Grulich stresses that progress on eliminating HIV  is reliant on a steady increase in PrEP use and regular HIV testing.

“Provided there is a strong uptake in PrEP as people emerge from their post-pandemic bunkers we really do have the potential to drive HIV towards elimination. It is critical that those people who have fallen out of regular HIV testing during the pandemic get back to that,” he said.

In 2021, according to NSW Health, 21,824 people received PrEP via the ​​Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) at least once.

Earlier this month the world’s first long-acting treatment for HIV, Cabenuva, was listed on the PBS for Australians living with HIV.

Cabenuva is an injectable drug that is administered once every two months.

According to NSW Health, the goal of the state’s HIV Strategy is “the virtual elimination of HIV transmission in NSW for all” as well as to “prevent transmission, normalise testing, start and maintain treatment soon after diagnosis and reduce stigma.”

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