Rates of HIV diagnoses in Queensland have dropped by more than a third in the last five years, according to new data.
Last year, 153 HIV notifications were reported to Queensland Health, compared with 245 in 2014. This is a drop of more than 37 per cent.
Experts are attributing the declining rates to increased testing and the success of prevention medication PrEP.
Queensland Council for LGBTI Health President Peter Black told QNews.com.au he attributed the declining HIV rates over the last couple of years to a number of factors.
He praised the “great deal of work done throughout the community, throughout the medical sectors, throughout the research sectors, and with government over the last several years to try and bring down new transmissions of HIV.”
In particular, he pointed to the success of PrEP among gay and bisexual men.
The medication is a once-daily pill that is 99 per cent effective at preventing HIV transmission in people at high risk. PrEP is now listed on Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
Peter noted the increased number of people testing for HIV also contributed to the declining rates. People living with HIV now begin treatments earlier as a result of earlier diagnosis.
When on medication, those people then have an undetectable viral load, which means they can’t transmit HIV.
“So, it’s a combination of more testing, early treatment, and the use of PrEP which has seen success in the reduction of HIV transmission rates,” he said.
Not all communities in decline
However, Peter also said that not all communities across Queensland and the country experienced these same declines.
“We are particularly concerned about the rates of transmission among heterosexual men,” he said.
“But also, more effort is needed to reach and support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBTI Sistergirl and Brotherboy people, particularly in regional areas, as well as transgender and gender diverse people. We know they continue to face unacceptable barriers to appropriate and knowledgeable support and testing.
“Community organisations, government and the medical and research sectors need to continue to reach and work with those communities.
“We must ensure that the success targeting the gay and bisexual communities is carried over to other at-risk communities.”
Queensland Health estimates around 5,500 people in Queensland are living with HIV.
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