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HIV statistics in Australia: Men

NB: Unless otherwise stated, data on this page is drawn from the 2015 Annual Surveillance report.1

By 31 December 2014, 90% of the estimated 27,150 people with HIV in Australia were men.

In 2014:
  • 70% of HIV diagnoses were among men who have sex with men
  • 5% were among men who have sex with men who also inject drugs
  • 19% of transmissions were attributed to heterosexual sex, and
  • 3% of transmissions were attributed to injecting drug use.

Gay men and other men who have sex with men

Gay men and other men who have sex with men are named as a priority population in Australia's Seventh National HIV Strategy because gay men/MSM have a much higher risk of acquiring HIV than other people and are the population group most affected by HIV in Australia. Priority actions in the Strategy reflect this fact.

HIV has been concentrated among gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) in Australia since the epidemic began; 75% of all people living with HIV in Australia acquired it through male homosexual contact.

In 2014, 75% of all HIV diagnoses were among gay men and other MSM (including gay men/MSM who inject drugs).

A high proportion of newly acquired2 HIV diagnoses continue to be among gay men/MSM - 84% in 2014. This probably reflects higher rates of HIV testing among gay men in recent years, rather than an increase in the number of new infections occurring.


Testing and diagnosis

Studies such as the Gay Community Periodic Survey consistently find the majority of men in the survey sample have had an HIV test.

The Annual Report of Trends in Behaviour 2015, which reports on the surveys, found that in 2014, around 88% of participants had ever tested for HIV and 60% had tested within the past 12 months.

In 2014, the proportion of people testing positive for HIV who were diagnosed with late or advanced HIV infection,3 i.e. after HIV has already had a significant impact on an individual's immune system, was 28%. This is consistent with the rates of late diagnosis in previous years.

Between 2010 and 2014, most (56%) late HIV diagnosis were among men who have sex with men. Late diagnosis was also proportionately high among men born in South East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, older men, and men living in regional areas.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander gay men/MSM

Between 2010 and 2014, HIV infection was attributed to sex between men in 50% of HIV diagnoses among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and either sex between men or injecting drug use in 8% of cases (totaling 58% of cases). This compares to 75% of HIV diagnoses attributable to sex between men among Australian born non-Indigenous people.


Heterosexual men

From 2009 to 2013, 650 men diagnosed with HIV attributed their infection to heterosexual contact4 (data for 2014 is not available).

A high proportion of these men were from countries with a high prevalence of HIV, or their sexual partners were from high prevalence countries.

A large number of men were not aware of, or did not specify, any HIV risk taking behaviour by their partner, that could have led to their HIV infection.

Apart from those with sexual partners from high prevalence countries, only a small number reported sex with a female sexual partner known to be HIV positive.

A very small number of heterosexual men attributed their HIV infection to injecting drug use and few reported having a sexual partner known to use/have used injecting drugs.

Testing and diagnosis

Heterosexual men are likely to be diagnosed late in their HIV infection, i.e. after HIV has already had a significant impact on their immune system. This is probably due to limited HIV awareness and uptake of regular HIV testing outside gay communities.

According to a survey of people living with HIV, HIV Futures 6,5 heterosexual men were less likely to have an HIV test as part of routine health screening than gay or bisexual men. Gay and bisexual men are more likely to ask for HIV testing as part of routine health screening due to awareness of HIV infection risk.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heterosexual men

Due to the very small number of diagnoses among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (242 between 2005 and 2014), it is difficult to identify clear trends in available data.

Among these communities, more HIV infections are attributed to heterosexual transmission (20% compared to 13%) and injecting drug use (16% compared to 3%) than among Australian born non-Indigenous people.

This implies a higher percentage of heterosexual Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men will have HIV than non-Indigenous (Australian-born) heterosexual men, but the numbers remain small. 


 
References

1 All data in this section is sourced from the Kirby Institute's HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections in Australia Annual Surveillance Reports unless otherwise noted.

2 Acquired in the previous 12 months.

3 Advanced HIV Infection is measured by a CD4 cell count of less than 200 cells/µl at HIV diagnosis; late HIV infection is measured by a CD4 count of less than 350.

4 HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections in Australia Annual Surveillance Report 2014.

5 The HIV Futures 6 survey was completed by 1,106 HIV positive people including 1,018 men (92.4% of respondents). 78.5% were gay men and 7% were heterosexual men.

This page was published on 22 November, 2012

This page was reviewed on 13 October 2015