AIDS epidemic 'over' in Australia, but HIV demands vigilance

Angus Morgan

12 July, 2016

The AIDS epidemic in Australia may be ‘over’, but the rate of HIV in Australia is still far too high, according to Burnet Institute Head, HIV Research, Associate Professor Mark Stoové.

The number of Australians being diagnosed with acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) each year is now so low, around 150, that leading researchers and the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) have declared it’s no longer a public health issue.

“AIDS is over in the way we knew it,” AFAO CEO Darryl O’Donnell told Fairfax Media.

Since the 1990s, treatment that stops HIV from progressing to AIDS has become more effective, and this along with early diagnosis has transformed HIV from a virtual death sentence to a chronic, manageable disease.

The treatments now available are so effective that people diagnosed with HIV can expect to live a near normal lifestyle and lifespan.

“What we’ve seen over the last decade, decade-and-a-half is this continual decrease in the number of AIDS cases being notified,” Associate Professor Stoové told AAP.

“While it is miraculous considering where we have come from in relation to the epidemic, it’s something that we have been progressively working towards over the last decade or two.”

Associate Professor Stoové noted, however, that HIV transmission is still a significant problem in Australia, and warned against complacency.

There are more than 1000 new HIV diagnoses a year, which represents an increase of about 30 per cent over the past decade.

“There are still far too many HIV transmissions occurring in Australia and many are preventable,” Associate Professor Stoové said.

“We need to focus on ensuring that we maintain our messages around primary prevention in terms of people using condoms if they’re placing themselves in risky situations.”

Associate Professor Stoové said it was important to note that the majority of AIDS cases in Australia involve people who have delayed testing for HIV.

“We need to ensure we better understand the reasons why some people continue to present with AIDS illnesses at diagnosis or after diagnosis when they have delayed treatment,” he said.

“While the numbers have declined substantially there remain a worrying number of people who are diagnosed late or have delayed commencement of treatment.

“These issues raise concerns for both the health of individuals living with HIV and for preventing transmission to others.”


Health Issue

Contact Details

For more information in relation to this news article, please contact:

Professor Mark A Stoové

Head of Public Health Discipline




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