HIV rates in the NT nearly doubles

HIV rates in the NT nearly doubles

April 15, 2019

THE number of cases of HIV in the NT has nearly doubled in the last financial year — increasing from nine cases in the third quarter of 2017 to 16 in the third quarter of 2018, shows recently released data.

The NT Disease Control Bulletin shows the majority of these cases are in Darwin — with ten notifications of the virus between July 1 and September 31 2018, up from seven cases the year previous.

Australian Medical Association NT branch president Rob Parker said he wasn’t surprised to see an increase in HIV notifications.

He said the Territory was in the midst of a gonorrhoea and syphilis “epidemic”.

“The key issue is sex education. We have other STDs out of control, and there’s just not enough sexual health experts in remote communities,” he said.

Dr Parker said he understood the NT Government’s budget restrictions, but said the Commonwealth sexual health funding missed the mark. The Commonwealth has committed $21.2 million in funding to deliver sexual health services through Aboriginal community Controlled Health Services in the outbreak regions.

Centre for Disease Control researchers said of the 16 cases notified in the third quarter of 2018, 11 were previously diagnosed and had transferred their care from interstate or overseas.

They said people who had been newly diagnosed had primarily acquired their infection overseas or interstate.

NT AIDS & hepatitis Council acting executive director Daniel Alderman said very little HIV was acquired locally in the NT.

Mr Alderman urged anyone who had recently travelled overseas — particularly to South East Asian countries — to get tested.

“Knowing your HIV status getting tested and treated is the best thing to do for your health,” he said.

Federal Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt said responding to communicable disease outbreaks in the Territory was primarily the responsibility of the NT Government.

Originally published as HIV rates on rise in NT