Tuesday, March 14, 2006

New Zealand HIV rates rise 17%

This report I saw over at scoop magazine is somewhat concerning, indicating that there has been a fairly substantial increase in the rates of HIV transmission across the board.

Of the 183 new diagnoses, 89 were men-who-have-sex-with-men (up 19% on 2004), 73 (35 men and 38 women) were infected heterosexually (no increase on 2004) and six were children diagnosed with HIV through mother-to-child transmission, four of whom were born in New Zealand to mothers who had not beed diagnosed with HIV. There are now more people living with HIV in New Zealand than ever before.

“What this tells us,” said New Zealand AIDS Foundation Board Chairman Hoani Jeremy Lambert, “is that no-one in New Zealand can afford to be complacent about HIV. Treatments might have improved but this is still a deadly serious virus. It has a major impact on health and wellbeing and people still die prematurely, especially infected children.”

I have this disturbing feeling that so much of this could be related to the presence of anti-retrovirals making individuals too complacent. In the minds of many, these drugs have 'cured' HIV so it's no longer as dangerous to go and have unsafe sex. This is far from the truth however as the article mentions:
“The medicines delay the progression from HIV to AIDS but they are not a cure and they do not prevent transmission of the virus to others,” she said. “Prevention is still our best option. A properly used condom is close to 100% effective against the virus and HIV screening of all pregnant women would practically eliminate mother-to-child transmission.”
I think the ABC strategy that worked so well in the past is worth repeating. It's essentially Abstinence, Be faithful (Monogamy ftw) and finally Condom use. Another good idea I think would be to make sure that highschoolers are given better sexual education, which would hopefully leave them better informed about how STDs behave and spread.