According to the findings of a survey conducted by the University of New South Wales’s Kirby Institute the number of HIV infected Australians has risen to an all-time high with 1 253 cases reported.
Speaking about the survey, professor David Wilson of the Kirby Institute said, “These are the highest levels we’ve had in 20 years.”
The figures also reveal that infections with the virus have increased by 70% since 1999.
Professor Wilson said the findings indicated the reported increase was not due to more testing but, alarmingly, due to an increasing trend in unprotected sex.
Further findings in the report estimated that at least 26,800 Australians are infected with the HIV virus, which eventually leads to the onset of AIDS, but as few as one in seven of these cases are aware of their HIV status.
“In some cases, people are living for several years without knowing they are HIV-positive,” Professor Wilson said, adding that at least 30% of these patients are being diagnosed too late to start effective treatment.
“This is a double concern: for their own health and that they could be passing the virus on to others.
“If people wait a long time before getting diagnosed, or if they do not start treatment once diagnosed, it is not as easy to recover,” said Wilson.
In Australia the patient treatment rates are considered among the best in the world though, and sufferers mostly have a good quality of life and live longer than in most other countries. By 2013 60% of Australians infected by HIV were receiving treatment.
“This is higher than almost anywhere else in the world and a great achievement,” said Wilson. “In comparison, around 25 percent of people with HIV in the United States are on suppressive therapy.”