HIV Notifications and PEP Treatment Increasing

Andrew BurryThe number of HIV notifications amongst men having sex with men has jumped by 38% compared to statistics from the previous 12 months in WA.

Although this statistic looks worrying, the Chief Executive Officer for the WA AIDS Council, Andrew Burry, explains that this increase comes with new and improved testing strategies.

Burry attributed the rise partly to the implementation of the M Clinic two years ago, a service designed for men having sex with men (MSM) to undergo HIV testing and screening.

“We’ve been anticipating a rise as our new strategies around testing been widely implemented to be more effective, pretty much the rise we believe to be is attributable to quite a high rate of diagnosis at the M clinic”.

In what is believed to be linked to the overall rise of HIV notifications, PEP treatment has also increased. Non-occupational PEP treatment for HIV was accessed on 85 occasions in WA in 2012, compared to 70 occasions in 2011 and 77 occasions in 2010.

Burry identifies that although the rise isn’t good, new schemes that are further encouraging quick treatment is helping to reduce further transmission.

“We’re seeing an increase in the number of people diagnosed quite close to the time of infection, which is very good because as we know there are a significant proportion of people with HIV which are unaware, so by being able to detect HIV more rapidly, that is great as an opportunity to improve the health of that person. It also reduces the chances of onwards transmission”, said Burry.

“We don’t want to see anybody with an HIV diagnosis but giving that there is HIV out there the fact we’re detecting it more rapidly is great and it stops more infection happening”.

In response to concern that statistics on the WA AIDS Council website having not been updated since 2009, Burry explained that “we communicate in a whole variety of ways we don’t really rely on the website to get that information out there”.

“What we’re trying to do is everything we can to support peoples safety, relying on bold statistics on a website isn’t really the most critical thing, what’s critical is for people to talk more about HIV”.

In the two years since the M Clinic was established, 2000 MSM clients have accessed the facility.

“98.6% of people who say they are highly satisfied with the service, go and talk to friends and get them to come to M clinic”. 

Burry emphasised that the broader community must maintain safe-sex practices as well as regular health check-ups to prevent further transmission.

Nadine Walker

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