Australia, South Australia, HIV, AIDS, Australian HIV rates

(Image by MJC; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

SYDNEY, Australia — The number of new HIV cases in Australia’s New South Wales region has plummeted to a record low, suggesting the state is on track to virtually eliminate HIV transmissions by 2020, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

There were 101 HIV diagnoses among gay and bisexual men in the first half of this year, the lowest recorded in NSW since HIV emerged in the 1980s, the Herald reports.

“We’ve seen new diagnoses among gay and bisexual men falling steadily for 12 months now despite an increase in HIV testing and we’re confident this means HIV transmission is dropping,” said NSW Chief Health Officer Dr. Kerry Chant, according to the Herald.

“This is a great achievement (and) we’re a step closer to achieving our goal of virtually eliminating HIV in NSW by 2020.”

The latest data shows there were 217 new cases in the past financial year, which is 25 percent less than the average of the previous five years.

Chant said this drop reflected the combined efforts of doctors, researchers, the government and affected communities to drive down infection rates through increased testing, early detection and fast treatment, the Herald reports.

A major factor was the rapid uptake of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), a drug proven to prevent the transmission of HIV.

While more tests are being conducted, the number of people diagnosed late has remained stable, meaning there are still people with undiagnosed HIV in the community, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.