The profile of people living with HIV in Australia is set to change significantly over the next decade, UNSW modelling shows.

The number of people living with HIV will increase by a third (28,000 up from 21,000), with far more people aged over 55 years (44 percent compared to 26 percent currently) and a greater proportion living outside major metropolitan areas. The figures are contained in a report compiled by UNSW's National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research (NCHECR).

The report Mapping HIV outcomes: geographical and clinical forecasts of numbers of people living with HIV in Australia, was , and compiled by a team of mathematical modelling researchers at NCHECR and released during the Australasian Sexual Health Medicine conference in Sydney.

The work was commissioned by the National Association of People Living with HIV (NAPWA). It shows the largest expected increase in HIV-positive populations will be in Queensland and Victoria. This reflects projected population movements and increases in new HIV infections in those states.

At present, the PLHIV population is mostly found in the central areas of the major capital cities and on the coast between Sydney and Brisbane.

Forecasts suggest that Australia needs to plan for a one-third increase in the total number of people living with HIV (PLHIV), from about 21,000 nationally now to about 28,000 in 2020; an ageing HIV-positive population, with 44% over the age of 55 compared to 26% currently; and increasing numbers of them living outside major metropolitan areas.

"The ageing of PLHIV is largely due to the life-prolonging impact of effective antiretroviral treatments but also a trend towards people being older when they become infected", said A/Professor David Wilson, head of the NCHECR's Surveillance and Epidemiology Program for Public Health. "Most PLHIV can now have life expectancies close to the uninfected population if they are regularly monitored by their doctors and take antiretroviral treatment as recommended."

"The expected rise in the average age of Australians living with HIV will present challenges for health providers, as age-related medical issues such as cancer, frailty and other morbidities start to increase," A/Professor Wilson said.

"Movement of people with HIV away from traditional population centres will also require the health system to focus more on the HIV care needs of people living in non-metropolitan settings."

Commissioned by the National Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS (NAPWA), these forecasts are valuable to guide the planning of high quality treatment, care and support services for people living with HIV throughout metropolitan and regional Australia.

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Media Contact: A/Professor David Wilson, NCHECR +61 2 9385 0900