1 December 2016: HIV is still here - and it's on the move is the national World AIDS Day theme encouraging Australians to educate themselves and others about HIV; to take action to reduce the transmission of HIV by promoting prevention strategies; and to ensure that people living with HIV can participate fully in the life of the community, free from stigma and discrimination.
In celebrating milestones and progress in the HIV response, World AIDS Day also marks a day to show support for people living with HIV and to commemorate those who have died.
ASHM reaffirms our role in the virtual eradication of HIV through supporting the health workforce in Australia, New Zealand and the Asia and Pacific Regions.
Over 110 public events mark World AIDS Day 2016 across states and territories listed at www.worldaidsday.org.au. ASHM with partner community and health sector organisations participated at Parliamentary Breakfast meetings in Canberra, Brisbane and Melbourne with a broad range of discussion including health funding, HIV PrEP trials, and spikes in new HIV infection among some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations.
Dr Norman Swan (The Health Report, ABC Radio National) moderated discussion at Australia's Parliament House with Professor Mark Boyd (President, ASHM), Professor David Cooper (AO; Director, Kirby Institute), Professor Sharon Lewin (Director, Doherty Institute), Ms Stephanie Copus-Campbell (Chair, Oil Search Foundation) and Mr David Menadue (OAM; Board Member, NAPWHA and AFAO).
Among discussion points, HIV rates in Indigenous Australians at an all-time high as highlighted by Associate Professor James Ward (South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute) at the recent 2016 Australasian HIV&AIDS Conference. "These statistics regarding HIV in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are Australia's wake up call. The danger of HIV spreading within communities with such a high prevalence of STIs is simply too great to be ignored."
Professor Mark Boyd reinforced ASHM's ongoing commitment to strengthening the capacity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers. "ASHM embraces the need to play its part in tackling the alarming increase in HIV and STIs among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities through a closer and more targeted and tailored approach to workforce development, especially with community health workers, and in training our own staff to work hand-in-hand with those communities."
ASHM delivers training courses for Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) and Aboriginal Medical Services (AMS) across Australia; spanning Echuca, Mildura and Bairnsdale in Victoria; to Wiluna, East Perth and Jilalong in Western Australia; Innisfail in Queensland; and Griffith, Wollongong, Coonamble, Wellington and Dubbo in New South Wales.
ASHM has developed and delivered an HIV/ STI training package for Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services in collaboration with ACON, NSW STI Programs Unit and the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of NSW. Titled HIV & STI Testing, breaking down the barriers to testing, this program aims to strengthen the capacity of health practitioners to these services.
This Canberra event was hosted by the Chair and Deputy Chair of the Parliamentary Liaison Group for HIV/AIDS, Blood Borne Viruses and Sexually Transmitted Infections, Senator Dean Smith and Senator Hon Lisa Singh, together with Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations, Pacific Friends of the Global Fund, and National Association of People with HIV Australia.
Photo: Hon Julie Bishop MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs makes an opening address
In Queensland: QPrep'd trial to expand capacity
In the World AIDS Day Parliamentary Breakfast at Parliament House, Brisbane – hosted with Queensland Positive People and Queensland AIDS Council – the Hon Cameron Dick MP (Minister for Health and Minister for Ambulance Services) made announcement of the Queensland government's funding commitments, including an injection of $6 million to make up to 2,000 places available across Queensland for the expanded QPrePD trial.
"Treatment as prevention remains good public policy [and] we've seen a decline in the number of new HIV diagnosis in Queensland – 203 in 2015 down from 245 in 2014, which is very significant. But, to get to zero transmissions we need to recognise the roles that partnership across the community, partnership of non-government organisations, partnership of leading organisations that we see here today with government to make the change. [Therefore] one thing that we can do as a government is make medication and funding available and I am delighted to say that Queensland will today be launching Australia's first Sexual Health Strategy [...] and what we are going to do is give more service to the sector through funding – backed up with $62 million across the system, covering investments that we are making in additional funding. That will include [...] committing up to $35 million over the next four years [...] that will be allocated to groups, such as Queensland Positive People, Queensland AIDS Council, Ethnic Communities Council."
See also: $62 million to combat HIV and STIs on World AIDS Day
In Victoria: Expansion of PrEPX study + VHHITAL program for GP training launched
Launching World AIDS Day 2016, Minister for Health Jill Hennessy today announced the expansion of the PrEPX study, as well as a new training program for GPs treating patients for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV via the Victorian HIV and Hepatitis Integrated Training and Learning (VHHITAL) program.
"PrEP is giving us real hope of a future where HIV is virtually eliminated. It’s important that people living in regional Victoria can access this life changing medicine, closer to home – and we’re making that happen,” said Minister Hennessy.
The study is currently running at sites across metropolitan Melbourne, including the Alfred Hospital and Melbourne Sexual Health Centre pharmacies. It will now be expand into rural and regional sites providing access to 150 places in the study. Ballarat is on track to be first regional site, followed closely by Shepparton. In early 2017, site will open Bendigo, Mildura and Sale. Appointments are also expected to be available in Geelong and Wodonga in the new year.
The new VHHITAL program which will deliver comprehensive prescriber training and support for the general practice workforce across Victoria is run by the North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network (NWMPHN), and partnered with the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine, Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, Alfred Health and the Victorian PHN Alliance.
"Primary care practitioners play a critical role in preventing, testing for and treating HIV," NWMPHN CEO Associate Professor Christopher Carter said. "VHHITAL will help ensure more GPs are able to play this role, improving access to care and health outcomes for the community. With the right support and training, and the new treatment and prevention tools we have, we can reach the goal of making HIV and AIDS a thing of the past."
Media Release - VHHITAL on the fast track to an AIDS free future on 1 December 2016
Media Release - Expanded HIV prevention and care in Victoria on 1 December 2016
In South Australia: PrEP trial is announced
On 30 November, the private members motion raised by the Hon. Tammy Franks (Member of the South Australian Legislative Council) on HIV treatment was passed in the Legislative Council with support by the South Australia government, thereby making milestone progress towards the implementation of PrEP access in South Australia. The statement below is from the Hon. G.E. Gago (Minister for Employment) via Hansard:
"On behalf of the [South Australia] government, I rise to support this motion, and congratulate the government on its announcement earlier today that South Australians at high risk of contracting HIV will be able to take part in the trial of PrEP (or pre-exposure prophylaxis).
Without doubt, PrEP is a game-changer and expanding access will be integral in reaching the goal of no new HIV infections. South Australia's participation in this trial is a proactive measure which has both emotional and financial benefits for those in high-risk groups. It also provides benefits to our state by helping reduce the rate of infection and, of course, the huge costs associated with treating those with a HIV infection. The government is committed to providing the very best possible health care for all South Australians, and our participation in the trial is yet another example of this, with other states, including Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, also taking part in this trial.
The government rises to support this important motion and congratulates the Hon. Tammy Franks for providing leadership on this particular policy matter."
South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill said, "This is an important new trial for prevention medication for HIV. It will provide those South Australians living at risk of transmitting HIV with access to an additional effective prevention method," adding that, "The State Government is committed to providing the best possible health care for South Australians and our impending trial of this valuable medication is another example of this."
ASHM President, Professor Mark Boyd, who is also Chair of Medicine at Lyell McEwin Hospital, University of Adelaide, congratulated the South Australian government: "Building on the catalytic dialogue during the 2016 Australasian HIV&AIDS conference recently held in Adelaide, the government, in partnership with community advocates, public health and research experts, has taken a very much needed and hugely welcome step in providing this proven and highly effective public health intervention to most-at-risk South Australians".
See also: Media Release - SA announces HIV prevention drug trial on 29 November 2016
Further afield in our Region
Levinia Crooks, ASHM CEO, is currently in Singapore at the Asia Pacific HIV Practice Course – a training course designed to improve the knowledge and skills of Health Care Workers within the HIV sector throughout the Asia and Pacific Regions. The course, held in conjunction with the 10th Singapore AIDS Conference at the National University Hospital, has 45 course attendees in a comprehensive program that includes sessions on Stigma and Discrimination, some presented by Levinia.
Mark Boyd will be speaking at the launch of the nascent Hong Kong HIV society this weekend. This is a great development for Hong Kong and one which has been encouraged through the Regional Professional Societies Network in collaboration with ASHM.