On 16th October, ASHM participated in a joint Parliamentary Friends for Action on HIV/AIDS, Blood Borne Viruses and Sexually Transmitted Infections (HIV/AIDS, BBV and STIs) meeting at Parliament House in Canberra, alongside peak organisations Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO), Hepatitis Australia, National Association for People With HIV Australia (NAPWHA), Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Worker Network and Australian Injecting & Drug Users League (AIVL). The meeting, the first under the newly elected parliament and under the leadership of Mr Tim Wilson MP, provided parliamentarians from all parties an opportunity to gain increased understanding of the role of primary care for hepatitis B and C, HIV and STIs and to hear about current issues from relevant community and non-government organisations.

 

ASHM was expertly represented at the meeting by our CEO, Alexis Apostolellis and Nurse Practitioner (NP) Shannon Woodward.  In her presentation, Shannon highlighted recent achievements, including Australia being on track to achieve the United Nations 90, 90, 90 targets towards ending the HIV epidemic and also acknowledged the government’s recent achievement in listing PrEP on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.  Shannon also described the need to continue investing and providing resources in line with recent trends including increased HIV diagnoses in gay and bisexual men born in Asia who have recently arrived in Australia and the associated challenges in providing health care for this group.  Shannon highlighted that inequalities in health care including limited access to PrEP and HIV treatment in these men is likely contributing to rising HIV rates which may impede Australia’s capacity to reach targets and a strong focus is still required for this priority population group. Shannon also acknowledged the current syphilis outbreak in Australia which is affecting young heterosexual Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and has resulted in 8 babies dying from congenital syphilis. Shannon explained that this has been unheard of in the last century in our country and that there needs to be a continued focus in this area.

 

Primary health care GPs, nurses and NPs are integral in the care and management of HIV, STIs and viral hepatitis. The transition of HIV and viral hepatitis care from tertiary to primary care has been accompanied by changes in models of care, with increasing nurse-led models of care for hepatitis B assessment and monitoring, hepatitis C and HIV treatment and prevention, and NP prescribing of hepatitis C DAAs and PrEP.  Barriers continue to exist for NPs working in primary care, where they are unable to prescribe s100 medicines for HIV and hepatitis B and PrEP for self-importation.

 

Shannon felt that the information was well received by Tim Wilson who seemed particularly interested in moving to address issues associated with people who are Medicare Ineligible.

 

Alexis reflected that it was “Fantastic to see Tim Wilson’s enthusiasm and interest and I am confident that government support for the sector will continue ensuring that we never get too comfortable with the past successes, also great to see all the peak organisations represented and aligned”

 

Continued scale up and investment in primary health care services and staff are required for Australia to meet both national and international targets for increased access and engagement in care and treatment for hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV and STIs.

 

Visit ASHM’s training calendar for information on upcoming hepatitis B and C, HIV and STI education.