For the first time, gay and bisexual men are likely to be prioritised as a group most affected by HIV after a successful push from the New Zealand representative at the UN High Level Meeting that will conclude in New York today. The New Zealand AIDS Foundation (NZAF) advocated strongly for the inclusion of gay and bisexual men (known as men who have sex with men at the UN) says Shaun Robinson, NZAF Executive Director.
“The inclusion of men who have sex with men as a high risk population group reflects the reality of the HIV epidemic in New Zealand as well as in other developed countries. New Zealand has been very successful in controlling the HIV epidemic among sex workers and injecting drug users, but the epidemic in our gay and bisexual men’s communities has never been worse so we are very pleased to see this as a priority on the international agenda.”
Robinson says the statement from the UN will have practical outcomes for HIV prevention worldwide. “Some of the conservative values represented at the UN have been very opposed to naming the groups of people most affected by HIV but we think it’s essential to recognise who’s at risk. If you can’t even name the people who are affected, you certainly can’t target them with HIV prevention initiatives so this meeting has been very important.”
Sexual transmission of HIV accounts for the vast majority of new diagnoses in New Zealand. Over the last ten years, gay and bisexual men have accounted for 77% of HIV diagnoses where infection occurred New Zealand. In 2010, HIV diagnoses for gay and bisexual men continued to steadily increase while heterosexual acquired diagnoses decreased sharply.
Robinson says anyone who has unsafe sex can access a free and anonymous test for HIV that takes just ten minutes to provide a result through the NZAF. “There have been some tremendous advances over the last 26 years including advances in testing. Anyone who thinks they may have been exposed to HIV can book a test at www.nzaf.org.nz or by calling 0800 80 AIDS.”