• Blood testing to detect HIV. (EPA/ MAK REMISSA)Source: EPA/ MAK REMISSA
Reports of an HIV epidemic in Far North Queensland overstate what's happening, says the health department.
Hannah Hollis

15 Jul 2016 - 9:37 AM  UPDATED 15 Jul 2016 - 9:37 AM

The clarification comes after the HIV Foundation's Dr Darren Russell was asked to comment on a declaration earlier this week that Australia had conquered AIDS.

In a Radio National interview, Dr Russell said Cairns had seen more new cases of HIV than normal.  

“Usually we have one or two cases new cases each year, but this year we’ve had nine cases already and we’ve only gone through six months of the year,” he said.

Carly Hammersley, a spokesperson for the Queensland Department of Health, said Thursday that the new cases Dr Russell had referred to involved Indigenous people and that there was an outbreak in Far North Queensland.

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She said Dr Russell had said having syphilis made it easier to acquire HIV but that did not mean there was an HIV epidemic.

He had told Radio National: “We have a syphilis epidemic in far north Queensland, in the northern territory and parts of Western Australia, we’re seeing a lot of it where previously it was under control.

“We’re seeing late teens, early twenties and gay and bisexual men are predominantly involved, but not 100 per cent”.

Indigenous people have less access to healthcare and are less likely to be diagnosed which calls for further education, he said.

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