HIV rises as grim reaper forgotten

THE rate of HIV infection continues to climb with new statistics finding that Victorian diagnoses have increased by 40 per cent in the past 10 years.

Ballarat Community Health Centre chief executive officer Robyn Reeves.

Ballarat Community Health Centre chief executive officer Robyn Reeves.

A University of New South Wales report, released during the week, found in Victoria 303 people tested positive to the disease in 2013. 

The report identified homosexual men as the highest-risk group, representing 70 per cent of Victorians diagnosed, although this was 18 per cent less than the national average. 

However, the report said transmission through needle-sharing had dropped. 

Ballarat Community Health Centre is the only dedicated sexual health clinic in regional Victoria, and has several dedicated sexual health staff. 

BCHC chief executive officer Robyn Reeves said awareness had dropped since the mass campaigns of the 1980s and 1990s. 

“People have forgotten or never seen the grim reaper campaign, and they’re not as aware now of the dangers,” she said. 

“The rate of HIV has been increasing, and increasing for certain at-risk groups as well.” 

Victorian Gay and Lesbian Lobby co-convenor Corey Irlam said education needed to get back to the levels seen 20 years ago. 

“With higher rates of HIV than the rest of the population, same-sex attracted young men need to receive targeted messages, in ways they can hear, read and understand. Messages ‘from put on a condom’, to ‘get tested’. Sexual health education is a responsibility of government, schools and local groups,” he said. 

Overall, 70 per cent of the 23,100 people diagnosed with HIV in Australia have undetectable levels of the virus as a result of treatment. 

Suppression of the virus means acquired immunodeficiency syndrome can be held off. 

Ms Reeves said sexual health awareness was something that needed to get better across the board, as well. 

“It’s important to recognise not just HIV increasing, there has been an increase in a range of sexually transmitted diseases. It’s important for people to be aware of the risks and remember safe sex messages,” she said. 

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