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Sex tourism to Thailand driving rise in HIV cases

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  • Sex tourism to Thailand driving rise in HIV cases

    DRUNKEN lads' holidays in Thailand and Indonesia, involving unprotected sex with prostitutes, are boosting Queensland's HIV rate.

    And men from north Queensland are picking up the virus from trips to nearby Papua New Guinea, a country with one of the world's highest HIV rates.

    The alarming hike in the rate of human immunodeficiency virus, a forerunner to AIDs, has led for calls to again push the safe-sex message amid fears young people are becoming lax.

    In 2010, Queensland recorded its highest number of new HIV cases - with 206 people diagnosed - and the numbers are still climbing.

    WA has also recorded an increase but across the rest of the country figures remain steady or have declined.

    And while most cases continue to involve gay men, the number of heterosexuals contracting HIV is increasing.

    Australian Medical Association Queensland president Dr Richard Kidd said the increase in WA and Queensland was likely due to the mining boom in those states.

    "Young men, isolated from their families, earning lots of money - and whether they are going to Thailand and having sex with prostitutes or whether prostitutes are coming in from other countries, the data doesn't quite tell us.

    "But they are both legitimate concerns."

    He said Thailand and Papua New Guinea had the highest rate of HIV per head of population, with 1300 out of every 100,000 people diagnosed with the disease in Thailand and 900 per 100,000 in PNG.

    "I would want to get that message out again about safe sex - I don't know how much young men are aware that Thailand is the HIV capital of the world," Dr Kidd said.

    Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said annual rates of HIV diagnosis had doubled in the past decade: from 2.7 per 100,000 population in 2000, to 5.4 in 2010.

    Mr Springborg said these rates - the highest in Queensland since records began in 1984 - represented an alarming failure in public health policy.

    "When it comes to health, unlike Labor, I refuse to throw good money after bad and I refuse to turn a blind eye to what are obviously ineffective campaigns at reducing HIV diagnosis rates," Mr Spring- borg said.

    He said he would move to re-direct more than $2.5 million in grants that had, until now, been channelled through the Queensland Association for Healthier Communities.

    "Instead of this funding being administered by QAHC, which has published its intention to move the core of its activity away from AIDS/HIV to more general political issues, it will be moved into the control of an expert panel - a Ministerial Advisory Committee on HIV/AIDS.