Tuesday 9 May 2023 12:42pm
The number of people diagnosed with HIV in New Zealand last year is encouraging, but there is still work to be done, the head of the AIDS Epidemiology Group says.
Figures released today by the University of Otago group show 135 people were notified with HIV in 2022, of whom 76 were first diagnosed in New Zealand and 53 were reported to have acquired HIV locally.
The number of people diagnosed in New Zealand (76) has increased only slightly from 2021 (67) but continues to represent a 51 per cent drop from the annual average of 138 over the preceding five years (2016 to 2020).
AIDS Epidemiology Group leader Dr Sue McAllister says the results continue to be encouraging.
“The low number diagnosed in 2021 was likely to have been impacted by the COVID‑19 pandemic, therefore, it is encouraging that the number diagnosed in 2022 has not greatly increased since the lifting of COVID‑19 restrictions.”
Gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) are the group most affected by HIV in New Zealand. Of the 76 people diagnosed in New Zealand in 2022, 45 were MSM, 17 were heterosexually acquired (8 men and 9 women), and for 14 people the means of acquisition was reported as other or unknown.
Of the 45 MSM diagnosed in 2022 – who were aged from 18 to 86 – 34 were reported to have acquired HIV in New Zealand – only a slight increase from the 29 reported in 2021.
“With the recent release of the National HIV Action Plan for Aotearoa New Zealand that includes a target of 90 per cent reduction in locally acquired infections compared to a 2010 baseline it is encouraging to see the number of locally acquired infections in 2022 has remained relatively stable,” she says.
However, there is still work to be done, Dr McAllister says.
“HIV transmission still exists in New Zealand so it is important to continue the main prevention efforts; condom use, uptake and adherence to PrEP, regular HIV testing and testing for other sexually transmitted infections.
“With over half (59 per cent) of MSM who acquired HIV in New Zealand aged over 40 years, and of all ethnicities, it is important that prevention efforts are delivered to all MSM and that testing services are culturally safe.”
In heterosexual men and women, the numbers remained small and relatively stable during the past 10 years. However, about half of these men and women are diagnosed with HIV late and have not had antiretroviral treatment to control progression of their infection.
Two deaths from AIDS were reported in 2022, but that number could rise due to delayed reporting, and data from Pharmac shows there were 3,033 people receiving subsidised antiretroviral therapy at the end of June 2022.
The AIDS Epidemiology Group is based in the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago. It is funded by the Ministry of Health to undertake epidemiological surveillance of HIV infection and AIDS in New Zealand.
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