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 the 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 HIV notifications newly diagnosed in Australia has remained stable for the past four years, with 1,025 new diagnoses in 2015.
It is estimated that there were 25,313 people living with HIV in Australia in 2015. Of these, an estimated 90% were diagnosed by the end of 2015, 85% were retained in care, 75% were receiving antiretroviral therapy, and 69% had an undetectable viral load, which reduces the risk of onward HIV transmission.
You can explore the HIV data from Australia in the interactive graphs below. Click on the tabs above the graph to view HIV notifications by sex, age and exposure category.
Scroll down to read the key findings and to download the full version of the report.
New HIV diagnoses in Australia have been stable for four years.
There were 1,065 notifications in 2012, 1,030 in 2013, 1,082 in 2014 and 1,025 in 2015.
In 2015, 68% of HIV notifications were attributed to sexual contact between men. 20% of cases were attributed to heterosexual sex, 5% to a combination of sexual contact between men and injecting drug use, and 3% to injecting drug use only.
Over a quarter of new HIV notifications in 2015 were determined to be diagnosed late (CD4 count <350). This means that they were in people likely to have been living with their infection for at least four years without being tested.
Over ten years, there has been a decline in late diagnoses among cases attributed to male–to–male sex or male–to–male sex and injecting drug use (from 27% to 20%).
There have been no mother–to–child HIV transmissions in Australia in the last three years.
At 0.1%, the prevalence or overall proportion of people in Australia who are living with HIV is low compared to other high income countries, and countries in the region.
18% of gay men who participated in the Gay Community Periodic Survey in 2015 self–report being HIV positive.
HIV prevalence remains very low among people who inject drugs, at 1.7% in 2015.
An estimated 25,313 people were living with HIV in Australia in 2015. Of these, an estimated 90% were diagnosed by the end of 2015, 85% were retained in care, 75% were receiving antiretroviral therapy, and 69% had an undetectable viral load.
Increase in testing
HIV testing frequency among gay and bisexual men attending clinical services has increased by 27% in the past five years; with an average of 1.1 HIV tests in 2011 to 1.4 in 2015 among gay and bisexual men attending clinical services in a network called ACCESS.
In gay and bisexual men attending sexual health clinics, HIV incidence over a five year period (2011–2015) was highest in 2011 at 1.32 per 100 person years, declining to 0.65 in 2013 and remaining stable in 2014 and 2015.
HIV incidence remains extremely low among female sex workers, with no HIV cases detected among female sex workers in the past two years.
Australia’s HIV epidemic is predominantly in men who have sex with men, with stable rates in the past 10 years. Initiatives to promote and improve access to testing mean that more men who have sex with men are getting tested for HIV, and they are getting tested more frequently. This has reduced the proportion of men diagnosed late with HIV. The number of people on treatment for HIV has also increased considerably, and there has been a corresponding increase in the proportion of people with an undetectable viral load (which decreases the chance of onward HIV transmission).
Harm reduction strategies to minimise HIV transmission among people who inject drugs have been highly successful and must be sustained. Extremely low rates of maternal transmission have been achieved through comprehensive medical interventions. HIV among women involved in sex work is among the lowest in the world, due to highly successful HIV prevention strategies for this population.
The trend in HIV notifications among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is very different to those of non–Indigenous people, particularly in males. There has been a steady increase in the notification rate in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males over the past five years, compared to a stable rate in Australian born non–Indigenous males.
Overall, these data highlight the need to maintain and strengthen established strategies of health promotion, testing, treatment and risk reduction, but also to expand access to pre-exposure prophylaxis to people who could benefit from this new technology. A strengthened focus on prevention is needed in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.