HIV rates climb in Australia
New HIV infections are rising throughout Australia, with some states reporting increases of up to 20% over a one-year span, the Australian Associated Press reports. More than 700 Australians tested positive for HIV antibodies in 2002, with most of the new infections occurring among gay and bisexual men. In Victoria, where Melbourne is located, new infections in 2002 rose 7% over 2001 levels; in Queensland, home of the city of Brisbane, new infections were up 20%. Infections rates also were up in New South Wales and Tasmania. Victoria's HIV infection rate rose for the third consecutive year. For some reason Victoria began this trend," said Bill Whittaker, head of the national AIDS office. "Now we've got two other states showing similar figures," he said. "These states make up almost 90% of the national HIV/AIDS caseload, so it's pretty hard to escape the fact that we've got a trend going on here." Whittaker said the increases were likely due to increased levels of unprotected sex spurred by a growing sense that HIV antiretroviral drugs have turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable chronic illness.