As the world enters the third decade of the AIDS epidemic it is timely to review and update our response to HIV/AIDS in New Zealand. The need for this was signalled in phase one of the Sexual and Reproductive Health Strategy released in 2001. New Zealand has been relatively successful in containing the HIV/AIDS epidemic, but that is no reason for complacency. In this third decade we are seeing the devastating effect HIV/AIDS can have on a country’s economic and social fabric if they are not contained. As a country with a relatively small population New Zealand is vulnerable.
In 2002, 107 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in New Zealand. That is the highest number for over a decade. While it is too early to tell whether this represents a trend, many developed countries also experienced a jump in HIV-positive diagnoses in 2002. Around the world an estimated 5 million people became infected with HIV (and an estimated 3.1 million died of AIDS in 2002) bringing to 42 million the estimated number of people globally living with the virus. In this age of international travel New Zealand’s physical isolation is not a protection.
New Zealand must sustain a long-term public health approach to the HIV epidemic that puts primary prevention at its centre. We must maintain and strengthen our efforts to reduce the risk, vulnerability and impact of the epidemic on the communities most at risk of HIV infection. Governments must continue to ensure they provide strong leadership in the management of the epidemic. We must strengthen and build on our partnerships with the community based organisations that are best placed to improve the sexual and reproductive health outcomes of the communities with which they work.
This HIV/AIDS action plan sets out a comprehensive set of actions that together should ensure we provide a comprehensive and effective response to HIV/AIDS in New Zealand. Many of the actions are already in place and they need to be continued and, in some cases, could be strengthened or extended. Some new directions are also indicated to meet the immediate and medium-term challenges we are facing. As well as providing guidance on actions, this action plan provides information on HIV/AIDS epidemiology, the groups most affected, implications for other groups in New Zealand society and international best practice in combating the epidemic.
While we have been successful in our efforts to contain the epidemic in New Zealand, where HIV is concerned we cannot afford to let our guard down. We must maintain and strengthen our efforts to combat this disease because although there is no cure and no biological vaccine, prevention is entirely possible.
Hon Annette King
Minister of Health