A larger number of straight-identifying men in Western Australia were diagnosed with HIV than gay men in the last year.
Among men who have sex with men in WA, the number of HIV diagnoses (20) was 51 percent lower this year compared to the previous five-year average.
However, among straight-identifying men it was 21 percent higher.
Twenty-six cases among the heterosexual men were detected in the 12-month period from October 2018 to September 2019.
It’s the first time this has happened since the start of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, ABC News reported.
The WA government attributed the increase to middle-aged heterosexual-identifying men contracting the disease while travelling overseas.
In response, WA Health Minister Roger Cook this month launched a new campaign, Going Somewhere?, to target and educate at-risk men.
The campaign’s posters will appear in men’s bathrooms at international airports and social media.
“It’s particularly aimed at men who travel to south-east Asia and who may not be aware of the risk of acquiring and spreading HIV, and other STIs, while on holiday,” Cook said.
“It reminds men to take precautions, use condoms and visit a GP or sexual health clinic for a check-up when they get home.”
Cook said the gay community had set the example for safe sex messaging and HIV prevention efforts.
Straight men less likely to have regular STI tests to detect HIV
Western Australia’s Communicable Disease Control director Paul Armstrong said middle-aged straight men are less likely to get regular STI tests.
The men are also less likely to seek medical attention when they get unwell.
“They are not getting picked up early. They’re taking some time before their HIV is diagnosed,” Armstrong said.
As a result, those men were likely to become more severely ill before getting onto HIV treatment. The men are also likely to unknowingly spread the virus to others.
As well as condom use, the WA Health Department is also urging men having sex in South-East Asia to use PrEP.
PrEP is a once-daily pill that is 99 per cent effective at preventing HIV transmission in people at high risk.
Last year, the government listed PrEP on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). This dramatically reduced its cost.
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