Around 1,000 Australians will be newly infected with HIV in the coming year and Australians should not be complacent about the risk, UNSW researchers have warned on World AIDS Day.

Professor Basil Donovan, from UNSW's National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research (NCHECR), says effective antiretroviral treatments are keeping HIV positive people alive for longer but this is masking the prevalence of the disease.

"The average person with HIV is very healthy," Professor Donovan told AAP. "That tends to lower people's awareness that it (HIV) is around."

World AIDS Day on 1 December is an international initiative to raise awareness of HIV and reduce the stigma associated with infection. An estimated 33 million people around the world are believed to be living with HIV.

In Australia there are more than 17,000 cases, but new diagnoses have plateaued over the past three years at about 1,000 a year, according to NCHECR's Annual Surveillance Report 2009.

In other HIV-related research:

Mathematical modelling shows that poor countries in South-East Asia could experience a spike in HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths as a result of effects of the global economic crisis (GEC).

With most HIV programs in developing countries externally funded, any decrease in aid for critical prevention programs could have a negative impact, according to NCHECR's Associate Professor David Wilson.

Papua New Guinea, in the midst of an increasing HIV epidemic, could be one of the hardest hit in our region, with the potential for infection rates to climb by as much as 35 percent over three years, and AIDS-related deaths to spike by 15 percent if HIV programs and treatment access is reduced.

A paper outlining the research appears this month in the journal Current HIV Research.

And research from UNSW's National Centre in HIV Social Research (NCHSR) has revealed that poor and middle-income countries are failing to protect men who have sex with men from contracting HIV/AIDS.

The study, published in the Journal of AIDS, found that on average fewer than a third of men who have sex with men in poor and middle-income countries had ever been tested for HIV (31 percent), and only a half had used condoms the last time they had sex with a man (54 percent).

Media contact: Steve Offner | 9385 8107 |