One in six people diagnosed with HIV in NSW report heterosexual exposure, and at least 10 per cent of people with HIV don't know they have the virus and could unknowingly pass the virus onto others.
Those are the surprising statistics Dr Therese Jones hopes will prompt more people to get tested for HIV.
Director Population Health, Dr Therese Jones said once a person is diagnosed, they can start treatment and improve their health outcome as well as prevent the virus from being passed onto others.
“A person with HIV who is on treatment in 2016 can expect a near-normal life expectancy and to live a healthy life," Dr Jones said.
“Health professionals now view and treat HIV like any other chronic manageable condition."
In the week leading up to World AIDS Day on 1 December, health professionals across NSW are encouraging people 'at risk' of HIV to be tested.
In addition to encouraging gay and homosexually active men to continue regular testing, NSW Health is also encouraging the following groups to get a test:
- Heterosexual men and women with behaviours putting them at risk of HIV e.g. men who identify as heterosexual but who have sex with men, people who inject drugs;
- People from countries where there are high rates of HIV and people who have had unprotected sex while travelling.
“It's important for people to know it has never been easier to get tested for HIV with testing being fast, free and confidential."
HIV facts: Around 10,000 people are currently living in NSW with diagnosed HIV infection. Most new HIV infections reported in 2015 were in homosexually active men (81 per cent) with heterosexual exposure accounting for 15 per cent of all newly reported infections. Almost a third (29 per cent) of people were diagnosed at a late stage of infection.
“Many new HIV infections come from people who do not know that they have HIV. HIV testing is essential to ending HIV transmission in NSW by 2020, Dr Jones said.
“Sixty-four per cent of HIV diagnoses in NSW in 2015 were made by services other than sexual health clinics. Forty-seven per cent of those diagnoses were made by GPs."
Peak professional bodies such as The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine and Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association support the campaign for more HIV testing among a diverse range of patient groups.
HIV testing is available at a range of different health services:
- Sexual health clinics
- Family Planning Clinics
- Aboriginal Medical Services
For confidential information on where to get a HIV test, people can call the NSW Sexual Health Infolink on 1800 451 624.
In the lead up to World AIDS Day visit www.health.nsw.gov.au/hiv-test to learn more about HIV testing and living with HIV.
Western NSW Sexual Health Clinics contact details:
Dubbo Sexual Health
203 Brisbane Street, Dubbo
Phone: (02) 6841 2489
Lightning Ridge Sexual Health
Pandora Street, Lightning Ridge
Phone: (02) 6829 9900
Orange Sexual Health
96 Kite Street, Orange
Phone: (02) 6392 8600
For further information about activities and clinic times please check out the Dubbo & Orange Sexual Health Facebook page.
Media enquiries: Brendan Williams, Media Manager, Western NSW Local Health District via firstname.lastname@example.org