Number of Recorded AIDS Cases in New Zealand More Than Doubles in First Half of 2005; Advocates Blame Complacency
New Zealand recorded 33 new AIDS cases in the first six months of this year, more than double the number reported in the first half of 2004, according to a new Institute of Environmental Science and Research monthly report, the New Zealand AIDS Foundation announced on Monday, the AP/China Post reports. HIV/AIDS advocates are concerned people have become complacent about the disease because of improved treatment, especially following a near doubling of the number of newly reported HIV cases in 2003. For about 10 years, New Zealand recorded an average of 80 new HIV cases annually, until that number increased to 154 in 2003 and 157 in 2004. Until recently, "New Zealand has been extremely successful in controlling our AIDS epidemic," NZAF Communications Director Steve Atwood said (AP/China Post, 7/19). However, NZAF Executive Director Rachael Le Mesurier said the success of antiretroviral therapy "could well be contributing to some people being prepared to take more risks sexually than when HIV was thought of [as] an almost instant death sentence" (NZAF release, 7/18). Atwood said the fact that some patients are unaware of their HIV status until they progress to AIDS makes treatment less effective and increases the chances of them spreading the virus (AP/China Post, 7/19). "This affirms our concern that up to 33% of people who are HIV-positive do not know they are living with the virus," Le Mesurier said, adding, "This is not only very bad for their life expectancy, it works against our efforts to control the spread of HIV. After all, just assuming you are HIV-negative is not the same as being certain you are because you have tested negative and had safe sex ever since" (NZAF release, 7/18).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.