HIV/AIDS is a deadly infectious disease that has killed millions across the globe. HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infects and destroys the white blood cells (called CD4+ T-lymphocytes or CD4 T-cells) of the body's immune system. Thus, HIV reduces the ability of the body's immune system to respond to infection, increasing susceptibility to opportunistic infections and some types of cancer. Transmission of HIV in Australia occurs primarily through sexual contact between men. The virus can be transmitted also through sexual contacts between men and women or by sharing needles and/or syringes with someone who is infected. The virus can cause specific diseases of its own and, at later stages, when the body's resistance is weakened, AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) can occur. With early diagnosis and treatment with antiviral agents the long-term course of the disease can be altered significantly.
It has had the largest affect in sub-Saharan Africa, where it has stalled poverty relief and is partially responsible to the continued increase in the poverty rate there.
Australia has so far prevented the uncontrolled spread of HIV among its population and the number of cases of HIV and AIDS cases in Australia are among the lowest in the world. Current data on HIV/AIDS in Australia comes mainly from the national surveillance of HIV/AIDS by the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research (NCHECR). In Australia, the cumulative number of HIV diagnoses by the end of 2002 was estimated to be 19,674 with an estimated 13,120 people living with HIV/AIDS infection. To 31 December 2002 (after adjusting for reporting delay), there have been 9,083 AIDS cases and 6,272 deaths following AIDS. In Australia, more than 85% of cases of newly acquired HIV infection diagnosed in 1998-2002 were the result of sexual contact between men.
AIDS diagnoses among indigenous Australians more...