Australia Signs Global Declaration to Affirm Science and Message of U=U

Federal Health Minister Mark Butler signs Australia up to the global declaration on U=U

Federal Health Minister Mark Butler signs Australia up to the global declaration on U=U

At a Health Equity Matters event yesterday in Sydney, Federal Health Minister Mark Butler signed Australia up to a global declaration affirming support for the science and message of Undetectable = Untransmittable, or U=U.

Australia joined Canada, the United States of America and Vietnam as signatories to date to the global declaration on a day that marked another significant milestone in the evolution of Australia’s national response to HIV.

While the Australian Government through Minister Butler endorsed the U=U message to a global audience at the 12th International AIDS Science Conference in Brisbane in 2023, signing onto the global declaration was a milestone event which confirmed that Australia takes an evidence-based approach to HIV/AIDS and supports as absolute the principles inherent in the message of U=U.

By signing onto the declaration, Australia commits to (points drawn from the declaration document):

  1. “To develop national strategies for sustainable and effective national U=U programs that are informed by the communities and individuals most impacted.
  2. To integrate U=U science into HIV guidelines and official communications.
  3. To implement policies to address inequities, decrease barriers, and increase access to treatment, care, and diagnostics.
  4. To include U=U as a mandatory component of existing HIV prevention, care, and treatment research, services, policies, and programs.
  5. To use U=U in health education and promotion efforts to generate demand and increase utilisation of testing, prevention, care, and related services.
  6. To conduct U=U awareness campaigns for key populations and the general public to decrease stigma.
  7. To improve access to and uptake of HIV treatment and viral load testing to ensure equitable access to the benefits of U=U.
  8. To recognize U=U as a primary HIV prevention method and/or adopt combination prevention strategies that prioritise prompt diagnosis, linkage to care, and treatment adherence support for people living with HIV.
  9. To train, support, and require the HIV prevention and care workforce, including clinicians, peers, and other support professionals to deliver accurate and concise U=U messages during service delivery.”

In attendance at the event to witness Minister Butler signing the declaration were Assistant Health Minister and Co-Chair of the HIV Taskforce, Ged Kearney, and Minister for the Environment and Water, and Local Member for the Federal Seat of Sydney, Tanya Plibersek.

Other attendees included representatives from ACON, the Kirby Institute, the Department of Health and Ageing, Health Equity Matters and NAPWHA. People living with HIV who were born overseas were also represented at the request of the Minister’s office to highlight the ‘Medicare ineligible’ aspects of the federal budget.

All three ministers addressed the group gathered on Level 3 of the ACON Building in Surry Hills (which is home to Health Equity Matters office). Health Equity Matters President Mark Orr also spoke and I delivered a speech for NAPWHA.

Highlights of the speeches included:

  • reference by Minister Butler to the need to deal with (State and Territory) legislation which criminalises HIV if we are to achieve virtual elimination by 2030.  Aaron’s contribution in that space through the HIV Taskforce got specific mention from the Minister and It was by far the most assertive I’ve heard him on the need to be rid of these laws, which are not science based, if we are to achieve our 2030 goal.
  • Acknowledgement by Minister Butler that HIV has served as an example which has informed the government’s approach on other issues in health. Namely, of the importance of centering affected communities in the government’s responses to those other health issues.

In my speech I noted that the HIV-positive community have been advocating the U=U message for some time, and that long before the science that people with an undetectable viral load were no risk of transmitting HIV, that people with HIV were incorporating what we knew to be true in our lives and in our practices, with our partners and lovers. But that NAPWHA’s sustained advocacy and effort on the subject paid off itself at inspiring moments such as signing of the declaration, which demonstrated what could be achieved when civil society and government worked together toward the greater good.

Scott Harlum
NAPWHA President

NAPWHA President Scott Harlum congratulates Health Minister Mark Butler

NAPWHA President Scott Harlum congratulates Health Minister Mark Butler

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