The number of people diagnosed with HIV in New South Wales, Australia, has fallen to their lowest level since records began 35 years ago, according to new data released today (23 April).
But the Labor Party have cautioned that the ruling Liberal Party’s claim to eliminate HIV by 2020 is ‘premature,’ Star Observer reported.
New South Wales interim Labor leader Penny Sharpe and Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord welcomed the data.
What does the data say?
Overall for 2018, just 278 New South Wales residents were notified to NSW Health as living with HIV.
That’s a 17% drop than the 2013-2017 average of 335.6 cases a year. It’s also becoming a pattern of its own; last year, too, saw a decline in HIV rates in New South Wales.
Of the 278 cases, 78% were men who have sex with men. And of that group, just over half were born overseas.
The news was welcomed by Labor leader Sharpe. She said: ‘New South Wales is a world leader in the prevention and spread of HIV. This is incredible news and a great achievement.’
However, Secord noted that while the data is reassuring, he felt that Gladys Berejiklian’s, the Premier of New South Wales, August 2017 pledge to eliminate the transmission of HIV by 2020 was ‘premature.’
He added: ‘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.’
New South Wales Labor then congratulated ACON, the state’s leading HIV prevention and support organization.
The role of PrEP
The party, in part, contributed the decline to the increased investment in pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, in New South Wales. PrEP is an ongoing treatment that massively reduces the likelihood of you contracting HIV.
The region was the first state to introduce a government-funded trial into the treatment, called EPIC-NSW.
The EPIC-NSW trial started in March 2016. It became the first study globally to measure the impact of PrEP on reducing HIV in a large population.
Around half a million people worldwide take the medication, after multiple international clinical trials demonstrated PrEP effectively prevents HIV transmission.
Moreover, the Australian government began subsidising the cost of PrEP across the county last year as part of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.