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Kirby Report findings

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16 Sep 2015

NAPWHA welcomes today’s launch at the Australasian HIV&AIDS Conference of the 2015 Kirby Institute Surveillance Report of HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexually Transmissible Infections in Australia and the 2015 Aboriginal Report of HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexually Transmissible Infections in Australia.

NAPWHA commends the Kirby Institute’s researchers for these comprehensive reports, which provide a valuable assessment of Australia’s progress in addressing HIV and identifies several areas for action.

A key finding of the Kirby Institute Surveillance Report is that the number of HIV infections newly diagnosed in Australia appears to have stabilised over the past three years at around 1,000 new HIV diagnoses per year.

Aaron Cogle, NAPWHA Executive Director, said this finding of stability was encouraging after a period of worrying rises in new HIV infections. “However, 1,000 new diagnoses annually is just too high and we will have to do much better if Australia is going to meet the target set under Australia’s National HIV Strategy, released just 12 months ago, of achieving the virtual elimination of new HIV infections by 2020.

“Today’s picture of HIV in Australia is a mixed one, with some States/Territories having relatively stable HIV infection rates, others experiencing rises in HIV infections, and others seeing modest reductions. Similarly, HIV testing uptake and the proportion of HIV-positive people taking HIV antiviral treatment also seems to vary across Australia — although uptake is increasing which is encouraging.

“One of the great successes of Australia’s HIV response has been our strong national response and enduring partnerships between governments, community, scientists and health professionals. We have achieved an equality of access to programs, services, care and information across the country which, while not perfect, is nonetheless a great achievement.  

“However, we must guard against an Australian response to HIV that becomes piecemeal. We must have consistent approaches and accessibility to high quality HIV testing, treatment, prevention and care across the country, regardless of where you live.

 “Access to HIV antiviral treatment is a major focus of NAPWHA’s work and again the Kirby Institute’s findings highlight that more work needs to be done to achieve higher levels of HIV treatment uptake around the country. In particular, we must ensure that all people with HIV are aware of the START study findings released earlier this year which gives definitive evidence of the benefits of starting HIV treatment immediately after diagnosis to maximise individual health and help prevent transmission of HIV to others.

 “The Kirby Institute estimates that our current HIV treatment uptake among HIV-positive people is around 73%. We need to do more if we are going to reach the target in Australia’s National HIV Strategy of having 90% of people with HIV on treatment.

 “Similarly, people at high risk of HIV infection, such as gay men, should be made aware of compelling evidence supporting pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP) using the HIV medication Truvada, which can provide an important new strategy to help people remain HIV uninfected.

 “It is good news that Australia is sustaining very low rates of HIV infections among injecting drug users and sex workers. This is a great achievement and the highly successful harm reduction approaches that underpin these successes must continue. HIV infection among Indigenous Australians is an area that must continue to be given high priority to ensure prompt access to high quality HIV testing, prevention, treatment, information and support.”

“The release of the Kirby Institute Surveillance Report provides an important opportunity to measure progress and forge new national action to end HIV in Australia. NAPWHA looks forward to working with Australian Health Minister Sussan Ley and her Department in the months ahead to maximise nationally led approaches to HIV testing, prevention, treatment and support and to advance implementation of Australia’s National HIV Strategy.”

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 Released 16 September 2015

 Further information:  Aaron Cogle, NAPWHA Executive Director 0468438214