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HIV cases fall, remain driven by gay men

HIV drugs
HIV drugs have helped those with the disease drastically increase their life expectancy, but they've also made prevention efforts harder to promote Keystone

The number of new HIV cases in Switzerland declined last year, according to the latest figures from the Federal Health Office, but the number of cases remains higher than the European average and well over targets set by the government.

Eight percent fewer people in Switzerland were diagnosed with HIV in 2013 than in the previous year, representing a total of 575 cases.

Between 2009 and 2011, the number of new HIV diagnoses declined steadily but rose again in 2012.

HIV cases vary considerably from region to region: canton Geneva has 15.1 cases per 100,000 inhabitants while the eastern cantons have just 3.6. The national average is 7.2 cases.

Gay men are responsible for the changes in new HIV cases, according to the health authorities, since the number of diagnoses has fluctuated only slightly in other population groups.

Although they make up only 3% of sexually active men in Switzerland, gay men represented 39% of new HIV cases in 2013. Therefore, the health office has focused its HIV prevention efforts on this target group.

The office says its prevention campaigns have been made more difficult by the fact that HIV-infected people now have nearly the same life expectancy as healthy individuals thanks to better medication. Although a positive development, this fact removes some of the terror surrounding the disease and can make people less vigilant about taking steps to prevent it.

The 20th International AIDS Conference, which will take place in Australia starting next week, has also set a goal of keeping HIV and AIDS prevention in the spotlight at a time when the disease has become highly treatable for those who have access to medication.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR