According to data from 2018, the number of people diagnosed with HIV in New South Wales, Australia, has dropped to its lowest since records began 35 years ago.
Last year, under 300 people in the Australian state were diagnosed as HIV-positive. Between 2013 and 2017, the average was 335.6 people each year, according to a report by NSW Health.
“New South Wales is a world leader in the prevention and spread of HIV. This is incredible news and a great achievement,” New South Wales interim Labor leader Penny Sharpe told the Star Observer.
Out of the 278 people who were notified as having HIV last year, 78 percent contracted the virus through gay sex and 19 percent via heterosexual sex.
Improvements in hiv numbers is down to PrEP
According to health experts, the reduction in numbers in New South Wales is a result of the state’s increased use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). PrEP is a antiretroviral drug taken to prevent those at risk of HIV from contracting it.
In 2016, a trial by NSW Health saw PrEP become available to almost 9,500 participants at risk of HIV.
In April last year, PrEP was also added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), which meant the cost of the medication was dramatically reduced due to a $180 million subsidy.
“For too long, people living with HIV have borne the brunt of expectation, responsibility, and blame when it comes to keeping the community safe from HIV,” Nic Holas of HIV group The Institute of Many told the Star Observer.
“PrEP offers HIV-negative people the opportunity to take more responsibility for their own safety.”
The medication is around 99 percent effective in preventing transmission of HIV when taken daily.
Are the New South Wales plans to eliminate HIV By 2020 “premature?”
Walt Secord, the New South Wales shadow health minister, said the New South Wales government’s August 2017 plan to eliminate HIV transmission by 2020 was “premature.”
“New South Wales Labor provides its bipartisan support to the current approach, but would like to see the Berejiklian Government look at ways to get the message to overseas-born men,” he said. Despite this, he welcomed the new data.