Page last updated at 09:00 GMT, Monday, 22 September 2008 10:00 UK

Sharp rise in HIV in Australia

By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney

Oxford Street in Sydney, the centre of Australia's gay culture
Homosexual men still account for most new cases in Australia

Rates of HIV infection in Australia have increased by almost 50% in the past eight years, according to a report.

The latest figures show that Australia now has about 10,000 cases of Aids, while more than 27,000 people are infected with HIV.

Researchers say the rise has been fuelled by Australia's mining boom.

They say wealthy miners and businessmen taking holidays overseas contract the virus through unprotected sex.

Upward trend?

Although HIV/Aids figures in Australia are relatively low by international standards, researchers are worried that this is part of a disturbing upward trend.

Don Baxter, from the Australian Federation of Aids Organisations, says that although homosexual men account for most new cases, a growing number of heterosexuals have tested positive for HIV.

"It appears to be chiefly men who are holidaying in South East Asia and Papua New Guinea, and having unprotected sex with women who must have been positive," he said.

"The risk of a major outbreak in the population is probably not high. But again, we'll have to monitor this situation very closely over the coming years."

Campaigners say that miners who have cashed in on the resources boom in Western Australia and Queensland have been responsible for a marked increase in the number of new HIV infections.

Statistics have shown that even those in stable relationships can give in to temptation when they are away from their families in a foreign country with their workmates.

A heady cocktail of exotic tropical locations, plentiful supplies of alcohol and money has often led to unprotected sex in brothels - and the catastrophic consequences that can follow.

In Queensland, health officials in Cairns have said that a cluster of six middle-aged businessmen who had tested positive for HIV following trips to Papua New Guinea could be the beginning of a serious outbreak in the city.

Australia alarm at rises in HIV
09 Feb 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Australia warned of Aids spread
29 Jul 06 |  Asia-Pacific
HIV impact: Region-by-region
30 Nov 05 |  Health

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