HIV/AIDS questions and answers

Answers to questions that are asked about HIV/AIDS, and the New Zealand context.

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How is HIV spread?

HIV is a caused by a virus that is spread by vaginal and anal sex and through contact with infected blood.

How do I avoid infection?

HIV can be prevented by practising safer sex (use of condoms) and safer injecting behaviour (do not share needles and other injecting equipment). It is not possible for HIV to pass through an intact latex condom. Using condoms and water-based lubricant in the correct way every time you have vaginal or anal sex reduces the risk of HIV transmission by around 95%.

If you inject drugs then you need to ensure that the equipment that you use has not been used by anyone before you.

How do I know if I have HIV infection?

You probably won't unless you are tested. The test can be arranged by your family doctor, Family Planning or the New Zealand AIDS Foundation. The result of the test remains confidential. If you think that you may be at risk of infection you should have an HIV test.

What is the key message of the plan?

The key message is HIV/AIDS is still here and there is no cure, but it is preventable.

In New Zealand the theme for World AIDS Day is ‘it’s better to know what is safe and it’s better to know whether I’m positive or negative’. Overseas research indicates that as many as one-third of the people infected do not know they are HIV positive.

How will the plan work?

Continuing and expanded targeting of the groups most vulnerable to, and affected by, HIV/AIDS. These groups are men who have sex with men, sex workers, intravenous drug users, refugees and migrants from high-prevalence countries and people living with HIV/AIDS.

What is the total number of people who have been diagnosed as HIV positive in New Zealand?

Since records started being taken in 1985, 3474 people in have tested positive to HIV. This number includes those who may have gone overseas or opted out of ongoing care. Specialists have reported 1874 people under their care, with about 80 percent of those on antiretroviral therapy. We know that 678 people diagnosed with HIV, who developed AIDS, have died.

More than 34 million people are living with HIV worldwide. More than 60 million people have been diagnosed with HIV worldwide, with 2.6 million diagnosed in 2009. At the end of 2010, there were more than 34 million people living with HIV.

Who is most at risk?

In countries similar to New Zealand the rates of infection are increasing and this pattern looks to be repeating in New Zealand. In 2010, the number of men who have sex with men diagnosed with HIV was the second greatest of any year since records began. Men who have sex with men are the single largest group at risk of HIV but other population groups need to be aware of the risks as well and how to access support and treatment.

Over 65 percent of heterosexually transmitted HIV infections were acquired overseas.

Why are the numbers increasing?

Australia and the UK are experiencing an increase in the number of men who have sex with men (MSM) being diagnosed with HIV as we are seeing in New Zealand. There is no agreement on the possible reasons for this. While obviously a change in behaviour, maybe as a consequence of less concern over the seriousness of HIV infection, could be important, it is appreciated that the rising number could result from a relative rise in the prevalence of HIV among MSM due to increased survival.

What is happening with HIV antenatal screening?

Antenatal HIV screening is offered to all pregnant women as a routine part of their antenatal care. The screening programme is run by the National Screening Unit.

The purpose of this programme is to reduce the likelihood of transmission of HIV from an HIV-infected mother to her baby. Preventive measures can reduce the chance of babies becoming infected from approximately 25 percent to less than 2 percent.

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