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New Zealand's HIV case numbers increase, but it's not all bad news

After two years of declining numbers of HIV cases in New Zealand, there's been a slight increase in the total number of infections.

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Figures released today show there were 212 new diagnoses last year, up 27. Source: 1 NEWS

Last year's figures show a total of 212 diagnosed cases, an increase from the 185 reported in 2018 and 201 in 2017.

However, looking into the figures, it's not all bad news.

More than a third of 2019's cases were diagnosed overseas (84), and the remaining 128 were diagnosed in New Zealand.

It’s a pretty similar number of locally diagnosed cases in 2018, meaning there’s only been a slight total increase.

The data comes from the AIDS Epidemiology Group, working at the University of Otago.

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The Aids Foundation is working with Māori organisations to try to reiterate old messages in new ways. Source: 1 NEWS

Leader of the AIDS Epidemiology Group, Dr Sue McAllister, says despite an overall increase, numbers are still declining.

“Following years of increasing numbers of people being diagnosed with HIV in New Zealand, it is encouraging to see that the decline since 2016 has been maintained,” Dr McAllister says.

It is unclear why there was a greater number in 2019 who had previously been diagnosed overseas.

The AIDS Epidemiology Group is also noting a decline in the infection rate of HIV among men who have sex with men, the most at risk group.

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The number diagnosed within New Zealand dropped by 6.5 per cent on last year.

“The continued prevention efforts and the combined prevention methods of condom use, early testing and treatment, and access to pre-exposure prophylaxis are all likely contributing to this decline,” Dr McAllister says.

The New Zealand AIDS Foundation is also encouraged by today’s numbers.

Chief executive Dr Jason Myers says this latest round of data is a sign New Zealand’s started to halt the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

“New Zealanders can take heart in these results as they will only strengthen our resolve to finish the work we’ve started.

Today’s data release comes just weeks after New Zealand AIDS Foundation launched a campaign encouraging HIV testing amidst the Covid-19 crisis.

The foundation says the lockdown is a chance to wipe out HIV transmission from New Zealand altogether.