In Australia, about 2,000 people currently living with HIV are also living with hepatitis C.
Figures from the New Zealand Ministry of Health (May 2012) indicate there were 721 people in NZ being treated for hep C in 2009, 578 in 2010 and 478 in 2011.
The NZ AIDS Epidemiology Group reported on 8 March 2012 that in 2011 there were 109 people newly diagnosed with HIV in NZ. Group director of the NZ AIDS Epidemiology Group, Otago University associate professor Nigel Dickson, said that a recent Auckland study had found about 20 per cent of a sample of gay and bisexual men with HIV were unaware of their HIV status.
If such men, unaware that they are infected with HIV and/or hep C, are both sexually active, promiscuous and fail to wear a condom during sexual activity, there is a real risk of both diseases being transmitted to their male partners (and in the case of bisexual men, being passed to both their male and female sex partners). Because the HIV virus is unable to be detected by blood tests until about 3-4 weeks after infection, men who have sex with men (MSM) are prohibited from donating blood if they have engaged in anal sex or oral sex, with or without a condom, at any time in the five year period prior to donating blood.
Data from PHARMAC showed the number of people in NZ receiving subsidised antiretroviral treatment (ART) for HIV rose from 1348 at the end of June 2010, to 1518 at the end of June 2011. Of those 80 per cent were males, and 20 per cent were females. It was estimated, 1603 people would have been on ART at the end of 2011.
With the recent passing of a bill by the NZ government legalising same sex marriage (SSM), opponents of the bill are predicting a rise in the numbers of people being treated for HIV/AIDS and other STDs prevalent among MSM.
On 1 December 2011 The NZ Herald reported that 3474 Kiwis had been diagnosed with HIV since it first appeared and about 680 of them have developed AIDS and died. Jane Bruning, director of a national support network for Kiwis affected by HIV, was reported as saying that somewhere between 1800 and 2500 people were living with HIV. She said there are hundreds more who have the virus but don’t know it. And others who won’t admit they’re infected (confirming Nigel Dickson’s assessment noted earlier).
Sexual transmission of hepatitis C was thought to be rare but recently there have been increases in the number of transmissions attributed to sex among “gay” men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) in Australia, particularly men living with HIV.
These increases have also been reported in numerous locations overseas, including in the United Kingdom, Europe, and North America.
Rodney Peter Croome AM is an Australian LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights activist and academic who currently serves as the spokesperson for the Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group, and is National Convenor of the Australian Marriage Equality. He has accused the Australian Red Cross Blood Services of “homophobia” for having a policy that refuses to allow men who have sex with men (MSM) to donate blood. In the light of data provided above it is obvious why it is imperative that Red Cross ignore the fallacious, vexatious and defamatory accusations made by “gay” lobbyists such as Croome.
The Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO), has produced a website (http://www.thenewdeal.org.au/) designed to provide gay men with information about:
- sexual transmission of hepatitis C and how to prevent it,
- testing for and treatment of hepatitis C
- information about HIV and hepatitis C co-infection.
AFAO President, Willie Rowe, points out why the website is needed: “With the recent increases in gay men getting hep C through sex, it is important they are informed about the risks and what they can do to address them.”
Hepatitis C is a significant health issue in its own right but there are particular health concerns for people living with HIV.
Robert Mitchell, President of the National Association of People with HIV Australia (NAPWHA) explains why this information is important for HIV-positive men: “Having both HIV and hep C can have serious impacts on the health of HIV-positive people. It can make treating both viruses more difficult and can also increase the progression of hep C and liver disease.”
New Zealanders Living with HIV
By Nicky Park. December 1, 2011
HIV and Hepatitis Co-infection
Dual Strategies: managing HIV and hepatitis coinfection
Hepatitis C New Zealand Treatment Numbers 2009-2010
June 11, 2012
NZ HIV infection numbers drop
8 March 2012. By Michael Daly. Fairfax NZ News