NZ HIV rates at all-time high

The number of people diagnosed with HIV in New Zealand in 2016 was the highest for any one year, leading to a warning that action is needed now to reverse the trend.

A total of 244 people were diagnosed with the virus last year, the group most affected being gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM), with159 cases.

The AIDS Epidemiology Group's figures also show that 42 people were heterosexually infected.

For most of the rest, the means of infection was not reported, with only one person infected through injecting drug use and no children infected through mother-to-child transmission.

Dr Sue McAllister, who leads the group, which is based at Otago University's Dunedin School of Medicine, says of most concern is the number of MSM-diagnosed people who were infected in New Zealand.

She says this has been rising since 2013 and the figure of 98 last year was a record.

"While now treatable, HIV infection remains a lifelong condition with significant implications for individuals and financial cost to the health service," she said.

"It is therefore important to address this increase in incidence now in order to reverse the trend."

Dr McAllister said all prevention tools available should be used.

They included increasing promotion of condom use, timely testing for HIV after potential exposure, early access to HIV treatment, and screening and treatment for other sexually transmitted infections.

While there were only a small number of HIV diagnoses among heterosexually-infected men and women in 2016, she said it is important for anyone who considered they had been at risk to have a test.

Monitoring of HIV, which if left untreated can lead to AIDS, began in 1985.