24 May 2016

More gay men being diagnosed with HIV

1:17 pm on 24 May 2016

A high level of gay and bisexual men are still being infected with HIV in New Zealand, research indicates.

Data from Otago University's AIDS Epidemiology Group says 224 people were diagnosed in 2015, a similarly high figure to the year before.

A scientist holds three test tubes filled with blood in a laboratory.

Photo: 123RF

Of those, 153 people (68 percent) were men who have sex with men, while 25 men and 17 women were heterosexually infected.

Four people were infected through injecting drug use, and one child was infected overseas having being been born to a woman with undiagnosed HIV. For most of the remainder the means of infection was not reported.

The diagnosis rate among men who have sex with men was slightly more than the 136 in 2014 while 114 were diagnosed the year before.

Associate Professor Nigel Dickson said the number diagnosed with HIV each year does not necessarily reflect the number newly infected.

But for the past two years there had been a higher number being diagnosed with evidence of a relatively newly acquired infection, suggesting an increase in recent incidence in this group.

"To some extent the percentages are a reflection (of) how we've got less HIV among the heterosexual community and among injecting drug users," he told Morning Report.

"In fact compared to many other similar developed countries we've actually been doing pretty well.

"But we're really quite worried that the numbers seem to be increasing."

He said importantly there was a pool of people who had not been diagnosed, who probably add disproportionately to new infections.

"One of the reasons for this, apart from the fact that they're not on anti-retroviral treatment, is HIV is particularly infectious soon after an individual themselves is infected." Unless people at risk were having frequent HIV tests they may not know to take measures to avoid infecting others, he said.