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How Queensland Decreased HIV Notifications By 38 Percent In Two Years

Curiously, HIV's gone down but syphilis and gonorrhea are up.
Safe sex comes down to testing.
Safe sex comes down to testing.

Queensland is leading the world in ending HIV, having recorded a 38 percent drop in notifications in two years.

This compares to the national average that has plateaued at about 1200 diagnoses each year since 2012.

HIV Foundation Queensland board member Darren Russell told The Huffington Post Australia the dramatic reduction was thanks, in a large part to new preventative drugs, increased testing and strong campaigns, but that it wasn't pointing to less unprotected sex.

"When you look at other sexually transmitted diseases that mainly affect gay men [HIV affects 70-85 percent men in Australia), gonorrhea is up 68 percent and syphilis has gone up 60 percent yet HIV is down 38 percent," Russell said.

"That tells us gay men are still having sex, they're still getting STDs, but something is working to be not finding as much HIV."

So what's working?

  • Over the last two years, HIV testing has increased two fold in Queensland.
  • Preventative drug pre-exposure prophylaxis (PREP) is becoming more widely available with 700 users on a government trial (as well as those importing it themselves).
  • A community health campaign that's struck a cord in Brisbane, Cairns and across the state supported by state government -- both Liberal and Labor.

Russell said the end of HIV was genuinely in sight.

"We started the End HIV campaign in 2013 and it's been amazingly successful, with a lot of buy in from the community," he said.

What is PrEP and what is PEP

Pre Exposure Prophylaxis is a course of antiretroviral drugs that prevents HIV infections. It's taken daily on an ongoing basis.

Post exposure prophylaxis is taken within 72 hours of a potential exposure. It's a four-week course of anti-HIV drugs.

The other area Russell said needed more focus was infections among Indigenous people especially in Far North Queensland where there was a spike of cases in 2016.

"We have still got a long way to go, and part of that is to do with dealing with the stigma some people have about HIV, I don't think we've succeeded yet in dealing with that."

"The goal is to end HIV by 2020 and if we can keep doing what we're doing and make a few little tweaks and adjustments along the way, I'm confident we can get there and NSW and Victoria are moving in the right direction as well."

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