A new report from the Ministry of Health in New South Wales (NSW) has revealed a 39% decline in diagnoses of newly-acquired HIV infections among gay and bisexual men throughout the state.
Only 101 new HIV diagnoses have been reported among gay and bisexual men in NSW in the first six months of 2017: the lowest rate of new HIV incidence since surveillance of the epidemic began in 1985. Since this puts New South Wales on track for global targets in HIV prevention, the state’s strategies for comprehensive and community-led sexual health programs should be used as a standard for intervention by other regions across the globe.
According to the study, a number of intersecting factors such as “high rates of treatment in people with HIV, earlier diagnosis through more frequent testing, and high uptake of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)” are all contributing to the positive shift in prevention throughout the state.
Community based organizations and clinics in Australia have begun to implement community efforts that are proving critical for the sustained success of prevention, testing and treatment initiatives. For example, a study aiming to increase access to PrEP to key populations in New South Wales, Expanded PrEP Implementation in Communities in NSW (EPIC-NSW), was rolled out in March 2016 and now has 6,336 participants in it – and rising.
“It would appear that PrEP has played a very significant role in reversing the trajectory of the ‘plateaued’ rate of HIV infections in the previous five years in New South Wales”, said Don Baxter, Board Chair of MSMGF. “If this trajectory continues, New South Wales will be on-track to achieve a virtual elimination of HIV transmissions by 2020”.
Nicolas Parkhill, CEO of the AIDS Council of NSW (ACON), was extremely excited by the potential implications of this data. “The adoption of a range of new systems and technologies appears to be impacting on HIV transmissions, which is very encouraging” he said in a recent public statement. “Gay and bisexual men in NSW have consistently shown that they’re committed to ending HIV and have adopted the use of these new technologies as soon as they have become accessible. We still have a long way to go but we’re heading in the right direction.”
The Australian Foundation of AIDS Organizations (AFAO) has laid out a blueprint for ending HIV transmission in Australia that demonstrates the need for increased investment in community engagement to sustain the progress that has been made as a result of PrEP and other technological interventions.
“There is no single solution to HIV transmission and medicine alone won’t end the epidemic,” said Darryl O’Donnell, CEO of AFAO. “It requires investment in prevention, testing and treatment programs and workforce support. HIV community organizations have the expertise and motivation to provide governments with a powerful ally in ending an epidemic.”
MSMGF is an expanding network of advocates and other experts in sexual health, LGBT/human rights, research, and policy, working to ensure an effective response to HIV among gay men and other men who have sex with men. We are directly linked with more than 120 community-based organizations, across 62 countries.