No time for complacency in fight against HIV

Media release

11 February 2019

New Zealand is continuing its work in the global fight to stop the spread of HIV transmissions.

“New Zealand is one of the first countries in the world to publicly fund the daily anti-retroviral medicine PrEP, which helps protect HIV negative people from becoming infected through unprotected sex. The treatment complements other safe sex practices, like condom use, and helps ensure people get regular checkups for HIV and other STI’s,” says Ministry of Health Director of Public Health, Caroline McElnay.

“Last year PHARMAC decided to fund the PrEP medicine, known as Truvada, to make it more accessible for people at a high risk of contracting HIV. Since 1 July 2018, 1,129 people have accessed the medicine. 

“Sexual transmission accounts for the vast majority of new HIV diagnoses in New Zealand and condoms remain the frontline defence in our fight against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). But the increasing use of PrEP is helping to tackle the spread of HIV by giving those at high risk of contracting it another way of protecting themselves. 

“We can’t afford to be complacent. Nearly 200 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in New Zealand in 2017 and about 2500 people (2077 men, 393 women and 21 children) are receiving subsidised antiretroviral therapy (ART) for HIV. 

“However, the number of people with HIV is likely to be larger than this as some people will be unaware they are HIV positive. It's really important for all people who have risky sexual behaviour, to be tested regularly for HIV and other STI’s - particularly men who have sex with men, who account for 89% of all locally acquired HIV infections. 

“If you know your status you can access support and treatment and live a healthy life. Many people living with HIV can achieve viral load suppression, where a person’s viral load is reduced to an undetectable level, which means that you won't pass the infection on to others. 

“Last weekend's Ending HIV Big Gay Out marked the event's 20th Anniversary. We would like to congratulate the New Zealand AIDS Foundation, and all those in the HIV prevention and treatment sector and rainbow community for over three decades of dedicated work to promote safer sex and prevent HIV," Caroline McElnay says. 

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