July 14th, 2024

New HIV diagnoses in New Zealand show a declining trend despite recent increases

Despite a rise in 2023, New Zealand continues to show an encouraging decrease in HIV diagnoses over the long term.

New HIV diagnoses in New Zealand show a declining trend despite recent increases

The latest figures on HIV diagnoses in New Zealand reveal an overall downward trend, even as numbers saw a rise in 2023 compared to the two years prior.

The big picture:

According to data released by the University of Otago AIDS Epidemiology Group, there were 97 new HIV diagnoses in 2023, up from 77 in 2022 and 67 in 2021. Despite this increase, the figures still represent a 30% decrease from the average annual diagnoses of 138 observed from 2016 to 2020.

Driving the news:

Dr Sue McAllister, leader of the research group, emphasised that the recent numbers, though higher, align with the broader trend of decreasing new HIV cases in New Zealand, according to a media release of the University of Otago.

The country's National HIV Action Plan aims for a 90% reduction in locally acquired infections by comparing to the 2010 levels.

"The low numbers diagnosed in 2021 and 2022 were likely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, therefore, even though there was an increase in 2023, the overall downward trend of diagnoses continues which is encouraging," said Dr McAllister.

Zoom in:

The majority of new diagnoses in 2023 involved gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM), with 65 of the 97 cases. This demographic continues to be the most affected by HIV in New Zealand. Interestingly, there was a significant rise in people diagnosed with HIV after moving to New Zealand, from an average of 57 per year between 2018-2022 to 123 in 2023. This increase likely reflects the uptick in overall immigration and recent changes to immigration policies regarding individuals living with HIV.

Why it matters:

New Zealand’s approach to HIV prevention and treatment, including promoting condom use, uptake and adherence to PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), regular HIV testing, and testing for other sexually transmitted infections, remains vital. Dr McAllister also highlighted the effectiveness of treatment, stating, "People living with HIV can lead long and fulfilling lives and those who are on effective treatment cannot pass HIV on to their sexual partners."