A study undertaken by the National Center in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research (NCHECR) has predicted a sharp increase in HIV infections in Victoria over the next 7 years. The increase has been blamed on falling condom use.
According to the study, based on a mathematical model, Victoria's HIV infection rate is likely to rise by 73% by 2015, a substantial increase in comparison with all other areas in Australia.
A 20% rise in HIV infections is predicted for Queensland. The infection rate in New South Wales is predicted to fall slightly.
Researcher Dr David Wilson has attributed the predicted increase in HIV cases to reduced condom usage and a rise in other sexually transmitted diseases.
"If somebody's HIV positive and have another infection such as syphilis, gonorrhoea, chlamydia, herpes, then they are 200 to 500 per cent more likely to transmit HIV to a susceptible person," Dr. Wilson said.
Director of the Infectious Diseases Unit at the Alfred Hospital, Professor Sharon Lewin has observed that there is a growing complacency among people about safe sex.
"We do know that there's less condom use and also increasing numbers of other sexually transmitted infections, particularly syphilis, " she said.
"Other sexually transmitted infections sort of fuel transmission of HIV as well, so we really need to target those infections too," said Professor Lewin.
The report predicting the steep rise in HIV cases by 70% has alarmed some in the gay community
The Victorian AIDS Council (VAC) has dismissed the study as 'flawed.'
Mike Kennedy, Executive Director for the Victorian AIDS Council says that since campaigns have already begun to combat rising figures the report is now redundant.
"A mathematical model is not a reliable tool it is not an exact science," observed Mr. Kennedy. "You build a model and the model gives you an answer but it depends on what you feed into it. [NCHECR] have looked at what has happened over the last seven years and they say if nothing is done about it there will be a rise but a number of steps have been taken already by the state health department and the VAC such as our Drama Down Under campaign," he said.