HIV

HIV cells

Introduction

It has been more than 30 years since the first HIV diagnosis in Australia. From the early days, monitoring of HIV has provided vital information to inform Australia’s public health response and has underpinned many successful prevention strategies. HIV surveillance helps us to know what is working well and where we need to do better.

The most recent data shows us that the number of newly diagnosed cases of HIV in Australia has declined by 7% over the past five years, with 963 diagnoses in 2017. Male-to-male sex continues to be the major HIV risk exposure in Australia, accounting for 63% of diagnoses in 2017, followed by heterosexual sex (25%).

In 2017, the reductions were greatest among gay and bisexual men, with a 15% reduction in the past year alone. However, there was a 10% increase between 2013 and 2017 in diagnoses attributable heterosexual sex, with a 14% increase between 2016 and 2017. Among the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, HIV diagnoses increased by 41% between 2013 and 2016, compared with a 12% decline in Australian-born non-Indigenous people, and in 2017 remain 1.6 times as high as the Australian-born non-Indigenous population.

There were an estimated 27,545 people living with HIV in Australia in 2017. Of those, an estimated 24,646 (89%) were diagnosed, of which 23,414 (95%) were retained in care. 21,560 (87%) of those in care were receiving antiretroviral therapy, and 20,412 had suppressed viral load. This means that in 2017 Australia met the 2020 UNAIDS global targets, with an estimated 74% of people living with HIV in Australia with a suppressed or undetectable viral load (which just exceeds the UNAIDS target of 73%).

HIV rates among people who inject drugs and female sex workers remain very low.

 

You can explore the HIV data from Australia in the interactive graphs below.

Scroll down to read the interpretation of the data and to download the full version of the report.

What's new in 2017?

What does this mean?

The overall decrease in HIV diagnoses in Australia over the last five years is due to a decrease in diagnoses among men reporting male-to-male sex. During this period, initiatives to promote and improve access to testing have improved testing rates among gay and bisexual men.

High levels of treatment were also achieved in 2017, with a corresponding increase in the proportion of people on treatment with a suppressed viral load. This reduces the risk of onward transmission to effectively zero.

In the last few years, state-funded programs have provided PrEP to an increasing number of the gay and bisexual men at higher risk of HIV in Australia, which has also likely contributed to the decreases in HIV transmission, when combined with ongoing improvements in treatment coverage.

However, declines have not been seen in all groups. There has been no decline in HIV diagnoses in people born overseas or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and there has been a 10% increase in heterosexuals.

Overall, these data highlight the need to maintain and strengthen strategies of health promotion, testing, treatment and risk reduction, but also to expand and promote PrEP and other forms of prevention to people who could benefit from these strategies and the importance of additional tailored strategies to ensure benefits are equitable across all populations.

Download