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Subject: Aussie businessmen get HIV on work trips

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Date Posted: Wed, Sep 17 2008, 06:44:25am

Aussie businessmen get HIV on work trips
13:27 AEST Tue Sep 16 2008
By Tamara McLean
Several Australian businessmen have contracted HIV after having risky sex with bar girls and prostitutes on work trips to Papua New Guinea, and specialists warn the numbers will rise as the epidemic worsens.
The Cairns Sexual Health Service has diagnosed six men with HIV in the past 10 months after "fly in-fly out" trips to the Pacific Island nation, a major sexual health congress will be told.
The men, aged 47 to 66, were mostly based in North Queensland and three had a female partner in Australia, none of whom have tested positive to the disease.
Sexual health experts say the new trend mirrors similar spikes seen in the Northern Territory and Western Australia, and were "extremely alarming".
"This small cluster could just be the beginning of a very large outbreak," Dr Darren Russell, director of the Cairns Sexual Health Service, will tell a conference in Perth on Friday.
"It indicates the HIV epidemic in PNG is becoming more generalised which puts these men at greater risk, and in that climate the numbers will only rise."
PNG has the highest incidence of HIV in the Pacific region, with two per cent of adults - about 64,000 people - now infected. Rates are highest in the capital Port Moresby, with locals and a handful of locally-based expatriates most are risk.
"Now we're seeing something new with these older, heterosexual Australian-based men with high disposable incomes putting themselves at incredible risk with unprotected sex, often after entertaining and drinking," Dr Russell said.
"The take home message for all men travelling abroad, particularly to countries like this, is to be more vigilant about using condoms and they need to get themselves tested as soon as they get back to Australia."
He said it was a hard message to get across as many of the men are engaging in surreptitious sexual activity to conceal the fact from their regular partner.
A similar trend has been seen in WA where the mining boom has been blamed for a 68 per cent increase in HIV infections among the state's heterosexual population in the past three years.
"These trends make it clear we are part of a global epidemic and our borders are becoming increasingly fluid," said WA AIDS Council executive director Trish Langdon.
"But the travellers themselves don't necessarily understand the full impact of that."


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