Media Release

Australia, 31 August 2017

The Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM) strongly oppose the measures contained in schedules 12, 13 and 14 of the Federal Government’s Social Services Legislation Amendment (Welfare Reform) Bill 2017. The provisions are ineffective and likely to further increase stigma, marginalisation and poverty we urge they not be pursued.

“The measures would cause considerable harm to a highly vulnerable population and there is no evidence they will achieve reductions in alcohol or other drug use or related harms.”


ASHM opposes the Bill for the following reasons

  • Compulsory drug testing contributes to the stigmatisation of people with substance dependencies and this trial may prevent people from seeking or obtaining treatment at an appropriate time, accessing harm reduction programs and/or healthcare for fear that this may impact on their payment.
  • Evidence suggests involuntary treatment has limited success and may actually result in harm. Best practice takes a harm minimisation approach, acknowledging the likelihood of relapse.
  • The demand for treatment for alcohol and other drug problems in Australia far exceeds supply. Additional resources will need to be provided to ensure treatment is actually available if referrals to treatment increase.
  • Any policy that actually increases inequality reduces health outcomes.
  • This policy also goes against Australia's policy framework/National Drug Strategy diverting resources from evidence-based approaches


International Overdose Awareness Day: A call for greater focus on prevention and harm reduction

ASHM supports the Australian Injecting and Illicit Drug Users League (AIVL) in calling for a greater focus on key prevention and harm reduction initiatives on International Overdose Awareness Day today.  “The government should be supporting this population by increased access to harm reduction services such as Medically Supervised Injecting Centres and peer distribution of the overdose reversal drug naloxone, instead of removing their right to self-manage their income payments as proposed in this Bill.”


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About ASHM

Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM) is a peak organisation of health professionals in Australia and New Zealand who work in HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections (STIs). ASHM draws on its experience and expertise to support the health workforce and to contribute to the sector, domestically and internationally.

ASHM’s Hepatitis C in Primary Care and Drug and Alcohol Settings program is designed to strengthen the capacity of healthcare professionals working in drug and alcohol clinics to effectively test for, treat and manage HCV infection.