SYDNEY, Oct. 21 (Xinhua) -- Despite widespread publicity and educational campaigns, HIV infection in Australia continues to rise, having increased by 10 percent in 2012 to reach 1,253, the largest number in 20 years, according to a report released Monday.
Sexually transmitted diseases (STD's) remain a challenge for health authorities with rates of chlamydia and gonorrhoea also increasing in 2012.
In contrast, the proportion of young women diagnosed with genital warts has continued to plummet since the national school- based human papillomavirus vaccination program for girls was introduced.
The national Surveillance and Evaluation Report 2013, released at the Australasian HIV/AIDS Conference 2013 by the University of NSW's (UNSW) Kirby Institute measures the HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections in Australia and the Blood- borne viral and sexually transmitted infections in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.
The Report indicated that the number of cases of HIV infection diagnosed each year has increased annually over the past 13 years, with the largest single year increase in new diagnoses recorded in 2012.
"Some of the rise in reported HIV diagnoses may be due to an increase in testing, but better testing simply cannot explain the magnitude of these rising rates," said Associate Professor David Wilson of the Kirby Institute.
By the end of 2012, a total of 34,029 cases of HIV infection had been diagnosed in Australia since the AIDS epidemic began.
Between 28,600 to 34,300 people are tought to be living with HIV across Australia.
According to the UNSW one of the biggest challenges in responding to Australia's HIV epidemic remains the estimated 10 to 25 percent of people with HIV whose infection remains undiagnosed.
Associate Professor Wilson said Australia must focus " significant efforts" on getting people diagnosed and initiating antiretroviral therapy in order to improve their health and reduce the risk of transmission in the community.
The majority of HIV cases in Australia occur among men who have sex with men.
Of new HIV infections attributed to heterosexual contact and 58 percent were in people born in countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia, which have had much higher rates of heterosexual transmission than Australia, or reported sexual partners who were from these regions.
By the end of 2012, an estimated 207,000 people were living with chronic hepatitis B infection in Australia and approximately 230,000 were living with chronic hepatitis C, both rates clearly on the rise.
Rates of newly diagnosed hepatitis B infections among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were reported at three times the rate of non-Indigenous people in 2012.
Rates of newly diagnosed hepatitis C infections were four times greater among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people than in the non-Indigenous population.
"Treatment uptake for hepatitis B and C remains low. Less than two per cent of infected people receive treatment for hepatitis C each year, despite the fact that the majority of people of people who are treated can be cured," said Wilson.
Gonorrhoea notifications continued to rise in 2012, having increased 68 percent since 2008.
Chlamydia remained the most frequently reported notifiable infectious condition in Australia, with 82, 707 cases diagnosed in 2012.
"We know that rates of chlamydia diagnosis have roughly tripled over the last ten years, primarily due to expanded access to testing, but testing remains very patchy and there are many more cases that remain undiagnosed," said Wilson. "Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Wilson said it is likely that there are five times as many more Australians with chlamydia that is undiagnosed, who may be at increased risk of infertility and other reproductive health problems.
UNSW estimates that as many as one in 20 young Australians between the ages of 15 and 24 have chlamydia.