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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
HIV Up as Gay Men Abandon Safe Sex

October 23, 2003
Age (Australia) (10.23.03) - Thursday, October 23, 2003

At a conference on HIV medicine in Cairns, associate professor Cindy Shannon, member of an Australian government body on HIV/AIDS, said 823 HIV cases were reported in Australia in 2002. The case count represents an 8.4 percent increase over 2001, when 759 new cases were diagnosed, according to a 2003 surveillance report from the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research and the annual behavior report the National Centre in HIV Social Research. The upturn is confined to New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.

The increase occurred after new HIV cases hit a record low four years ago, from 1,228 in 1992 to 724 in 1999. Shannon said 90 percent of new HIV cases were acquired through gay male sex, indicating a trend of gay men having more unsafe sex with casual partners.

"The report shows that among gay men there has been a continuing increase in unprotected anal intercourse with casual sex partners in most Australian cities," Shannon said.

The reports revealed that in Sydney, more than a third of gay men were having unprotected sex with casual partners - a 24 percent increase from 1998. Fifty-nine percent of gay men were having unprotected sex with regular partners - up 10 percent from 1998.

In 2002, 13,120 Australians were living with HIV/AIDS, figures showed, including 246 people with newly diagnosed AIDS. The reports also indicated a continuing trend toward heterosexual transmission of the virus in indigenous communities, Shannon said.

Chlamydia diagnoses increased from 74.7 per 100,000 people in 1999 to 128.5 per 100,000 people in 2002. Gonorrhea increased from 29.9 per 100,000 in 1999 to 32.9 per 100,000 in 2002.