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Take a brief survey about how COVID-19 has impacted you to help us better provide support services to people living with HIV

NAPWHA is undertaking a brief survey of People Living with HIV in Australia so that we are better able to provide support and services in the response to COVID-19.

We thank you for taking a couple of minutes to complete this survey. If you are unable to click the link, please copy and paste the full URL below into your browser:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NAPWHA_COVID-19_PLHIV

This survey will close on 8 April 2020. If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at info@napwha.org.au

Treatment Outreach Network 2020 meeting held online during COVID-19 restrictions

NAPWHA’s Treatment Outreach Network – a membership of professionals from Australian State and Territory peer-based organisations and AIDS Councils, held their annual formal meeting via video conferencing during this time of COVID-19 restrictions.

Hosted and facilitated by NAPWHA, the network work together to optimise the overall wellbeing of people living with HIV (PLHIV) and those affected by HIV, by providing a high standard of information and care on issues of health and treatments for HIV.

Two video conference calls were held on 8 and 15 April 2020 to hold initial roundtable discussion regarding disruptions to frontline services and responses to the impact of COVID19. A third video call hosted various presenters speaking on themed subjects, including Dr Elizabeth Crock, Vikas Parwani, Dr Darren Russell, and Associate Professor Edwina Wright. Video recordings of these sessions are featured below.

Referral pathways to PLHIV services and Nurse Practitioner community practicing

Dr Liz Crock (HIV Clinical Nurse Consultant) provided members with a question and answer (Q&A) session that allows members to better understand the referral processes and navigating social services for ancillary care arrangements for clients living with HIV.

Government Funded Income Support during COVID-19: Who’s eligible and who’s left behind

Vikas Parwani (Solicitor of The HIV/AIDS Legal Centre – HALC) provided members with a presentation on the delivery of current information on welfare service supports.

Clinical supports for PLHIV during COVID-19 including telehealth and CovidSafe app

Dr Darren Russell (Director of Sexual Health, Cairns Hospital) provided members a presentation and Q&A about clinical supports that are being put into place to enable people living with HIV (PLHIV) to better access services and understand the current situation in relation to COVID-19.

  • Could you give us some of your thinking on the [Australian Government’s] COVID Safe Tracking app launched on 26 April 2020 and people living with HIV – e.g. public health benefits versus privacy concerns?
  • Do you see the COVID Safe Tracking app being used in [workplace setting] as a [mandatory] occupational health and safety tool?
  • Is it possible that those protection laws may change down the line? Who is going to ask permission from you to access your information?
  • Could you tell us a bit about Telehealth from the clinical perspective? What’s working, what’s not? Will we in Australia be seeing it stick around?
  • What privacy and confidentiality measures are put into place for people sending data and information in through Telehealth platforms (e.g. video calls, SMS?)
  • Are numbers of people presenting at clinics and HIV-STI notifications going down or changing during this period?

Current data on COVID-19 and how it applies to PLHIV

Associate Professor Edwina Wright (Head of HIV Prevention Service, Department of Infectious Diseases, Alfred Hospital and Central Clinical School, Monash University) provided members a presentation and Q&A about the most current data on COVID-19 and how it applies to PLHIV, their treatment and long-term health.

Edwina is the Chair of ASHM’s Taskforce on BBVs, Sexual Health and COVID-19 was established on 20 March 2020. It provides a timely opportunity for the BBV and sexual health sectors to discuss the scientific, clinical, BBV and sexual health service delivery and social implications of COVID-19, and provides consistent and evidence-based messaging to the health workforce, sector partners and community.

About the NAPWHA Treatment Outreach Network

The Treatment Outreach Network (TON) is a network of professionals working together to optimise the overall wellbeing of people living with HIV (PLHIV) and those affected by HIV, by providing a high standard of information and care on issues of health and treatments for HIV.

The membership of Treatments Officers throughout Australia and New Zealand, working for their State and Territory peer-based organisations and AIDS Councils are called together by NAPWHA under this program to provide peer support/navigation and to promote the sharing of information. The network meets formally once per year and informal communication occurs throughout the rest of the year to continue the work of the network.

Accessing HIV treatments during COVID-19

Note: This circulation further updates a communication from 3 April 2020 — Managing community concerns about ARV supply: The importance of consistent HIV health sector messaging

Australia still has ample supplies of all HIV medications

The pharmaceutical companies who provide antiretroviral medications in Australia would like to reassure people living with HIV (PLHIV) that there are still healthy supplies of HIV treatments in the country. What’s more, they do not anticipate any disruption to supply in the near future.

PLHIV are encouraged to keep ordering their medications as usual and to keep taking them as prescribed. People with HIV should not skip doses or share medication with friends who are worried about their own supply.

Gilead is providing free postage of medications

In order to avoid going out, PLHIV can now have their HIV treatments posted to them at home by asking their doctor to forward scripts directly to the pharmacy (by email or fax).

Most pharmacies are dispensing the full script (4 or 6 months worth) but only providing 2 months supply at first, and then posting the next lot out at the appropriate time. A few pharmacies are only dispensing one month’s supply at first, but also providing the rest by post.

PLHIV are encouraged to request this postal service if it isn’t offered.

Any pharmacist can access free prepaid post bags by contacting Gilead Sciences in their Melbourne offices on (03) 9272 4400.

ViiV and Gilead expand Compassionate Access for PLHIV stuck in Australia

There are many PLHIV who are residents in Australia but are not eligible for a Medicare card and so are unable to access subsidised HIV treatments through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

Some of these PLHIV are on Temporary Visas and return to their home countries regularly to fill their HIV prescriptions. But this is impossible at the moment. Which is why Australian pharmaceutical companies have expanded their Compassionate Access Schemes to allow people who are stuck in the country to get access to HIV treatments.

PLHIV in this situation are encouraged to talk to any GP who specialises in HIV (an HIV s100 prescriber) or any doctor at a Sexual Health Clinic. The doctor will contact the relevant pharmaceutical company who supplies the particular treatment and, if approved, will provide them with two months supply free of charge.

National Members Forum 2020 held virtually during COVID-19 restrictions

This year, the NAPWHA national forum of its membership met together in a one-day event, for the first time, physically distanced, each on our local Aboriginal lands, by video conference.

“Who could have imagined in October 2019, when we came together for the NAPWHA AGM in Sydney, the challenges of the months ahead for our organisations and our communities,” stated NAPWHA President, Scott Harlum in an opening address.

“COVID-19 has challenged us all. With these changed and rapidly changing times as our backdrop, it is timely that the network of community organisations representing people with HIV who come together under the banner of NAPWHA membership do so for our annual member’s forum for 2020.”

Below are some of the forum’s agenda items and some of the presentations expanded.

State of the Association: ED Report

Aaron Cogle (NAPWHA Executive Director) presented on the State of the Association, including:

NAPWHA Board election results

Scott Harlum (NAPWHA President) announced the Board election result of an Ordinary Director to serve on the NAPWHA Board of Directors.

“On behalf of the Board and the Association I thank each of the nominees for putting themselves forward for this election, and congratulate and welcome Michael Brown.”

This appointment goes until October 2020, at which time it will be recontested as a full term position in elections conducted in the lead up to the NAPWHA Annual General Meeting.

Michael is a Kalkadoon, Barada Barna, Wangi Man. Living in Cairns, Queensland. Michael has worked in alcohol and drug recovery and rehabilitation, homelessness, youth in care, disabilities and aged care. After his HIV diagnosis in 2016 Michael has worked as Indigenous Peer Navigator at Queensland Positive People, Health Worker and Peer on the HIV Response Team at Cairns Sexual Health Service and joined the Board of PATSIN (Positive Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Network).

Currently Michael is the Outreach Senior Health Promotion Officer, Sexual Health Educator at Wuchopperen Health Service Ltd working on improving knowledge, education and access to sexual health testing and treatment. He is a passionate peer and advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander peoples living with HIV and the improvement and implementation of culturally appropriate supports and services.

Other National Forum agenda items

Other parts of the meeting agenda consisted of:

  • Chris Howard (QPP) chaired a roundtable report back of NAPWHA and jurisdictional State and Territory responses to COVID-19
  • Charlie Tredway (NAPWHA Project Officer) who presented the preliminary results of a PLHIV Survey
  • Adrian Ogier (NAPWHA Deputy Director) and Richard Keane (Living Positive Victoria) launched the Australian HIV Peer Support Standards – a new NAPWHA publication describing the requisite skills and competencies required of a peer supporter; what can be expected of evidence-informed practice of peer support programs; and the benefit that peer support brings to the HIV-affected community
  • Rob Monaghan (Monaghan Consulting) who informed NAPWHA members of the first phase of work required to develop a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP)
  • Lance Feeney (Positive Life NSW) who presented on the importance of DARE or Digital Ano-Rectal Examination, which is an easy way to check for anal abnormalities that could lead to anal cancer.
  • Meredith Turnbull (Consultant) provided a overview and report back on a forum of National Network of Women with HIV from across Australia who met in Sydney on 10 March (following the National Day of Women Living with HIV). The forum provided an opportunity for women living with and working in HIV to connect, share information, learn from each other and provide feedback to NAPWHA, particularly on the question, “How do we best engage to deliver for and with women living with HIV in 2020 and beyond”
  • Michelle Tobin announced fantastic news of her appointment as Aboriginal Health Project Officer at Positive Life NSW

HIV prison laws inflame stigma, offer no protection

Media Release
11 May 2020

Proposed laws to forcibly test prisoners for HIV have no basis in science, perpetuate stigma, and should be referred to a parliamentary committee, according to the WA AIDS Council and National Association for People with HIV Australia.

Under laws set to be introduced to the WA Parliament on Tuesday, a prisoner who assaults a prison officer will be immediately tested for HIV. The laws overlook the following critical facts:

  • HIV is not transmitted through saliva, a key myth perpetuated to justify this and similar legislation.
  • In the unlikely event a prison officer was exposed to HIV, they should take post-exposure prophylaxis, a medicine which can prevent transmission within 72 hours of exposure.
  • The Government’s press release falsely claims prison officers who have been assaulted have to wait three months before they themselves can be tested for HIV. This is false. Modern HIV tests detect exposure within six days.
  • Falsely equating HIV with criminality inflames stigma and discourages people from seeking tests for HIV.
  • A vaccine exists for hepatitis B and there is a cure for hepatitis C.

WAAC President, Asanka Gunasekera said:

“HIV thrives on stigma and misinformation. These laws inflame that problem and hinder our prevention efforts. Marginalised communities such as gay and bisexual men, people who inject drugs, and sex workers will be less likely to seek a test for HIV when they see it associated with criminality.

“Part of the case for these laws rests on the discomfort prison officers face when they are spat upon. However, HIV is not transmitted through saliva, destroying one of the key arguments for introducing this legislation.

“The Government has also argued a prison officer may face an anxious three month wait to know if they have contracted HIV. The truth is that modern tests pick up the presence of HIV within six days of exposure. Rapid tests provide highly accurate results within fifteen minutes.

NAPWHA President Scott Harlum said:

“Frontline workers including prison officers need to know they’re being sold a lie and offered nothing but dangerous false reassurance by these proposed laws and any government promoting them.

“There is no mystery in how best to respond to a genuine potential exposure to HIV, such as a needlestick injury, and that does not include any time wasted or misdirected attention on anybody but the person potentially exposed.

“In cases where someone faces genuine potential exposure to HIV, such as a needlestick injury, post-exposure prophylaxis medicine is highly effective at preventing HIV transmission if taken as soon as possible and within 72 hours. Additionally, all frontline workers should be protected against hepatitis B through vaccination.

“These laws fail to solve any problem, and only hinder the HIV prevention effort. Likewise, there is no evidence mandatory testing of prisoners will do anything other than further marginalise those living with HIV and other blood borne viruses. Amplifying anxiety and misplaced fear around HIV is simply the wrong thing to do.”

Media Contact available for interview

Related links

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Join us for CHINWAG: Positive Connection

***  CHINWAG has now concluded  ***

This is a safe, inclusive and dynamic virtual space where every Friday, for one hour, the ever fabulous Vanessa Wagner will be hosting a Zoom video conference event called CHINWAG: Positive Connection with a team of HIV Peer supporters.

  • 5:00-6:00 pm (Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney)
  • 4:30-5:30 pm (Adelaide, Alice Springs, Darwin)
  • 3:00-4:00 pm (Perth)

CHINWAG: Positive Connection aims to create a fun space for people living with HIV to have a yarn, unwind and come together.

THANK YOUS

Over 12 weeks the series of events has been wildly popular exceeding all our hopes for the project and we are immensely grateful to you for spending your Friday evenings with us and creating such a warm, open and supportive space.

Chinwag would not have been possible without our incomparable host, along with an amazing stable of special guests, each of whom brought their expertise, passion, and generosity to the event, giving their time to help our community through COVID-19:

  • Friday 22 May: Inaugural meeting with Vanessa Wagner
  • Friday 29 May: Christopher Brett-Renes (Psychosexual therapist, health educator and sexual health/HIV researcher)
  • Friday 5 June: Joel Murray (ACON Senior Manager of the community health programs team, which includes the alcohol and other drugs program and needle syringe program)
  • Friday 12 June: Brent Clifton (Project Coordinator of RISE study at Kirby Institute UNSW)
  • Friday 19 June: Associate Professor Edwina Wright (Infectious diseases physician & clinical researcher at The Alfred and Burnet Institute)
  • Friday 26 June: Nic Holas (HIV activist; campaigns director for Change.org Australia; co-founder of The Institute of Many)
  • Friday 3 July: Vikas Parwani (Solicitor of The HIV/AIDS Legal Centre – HALC)
  • Friday 10 July: Michelle Tobin (Community Advocate for the well-being and human rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in NSW)
  • Friday 17 July: Greg Owen (London-based HIV advocate and co-founder of I Want Prep Now in the UK; PrEP Lead for Terrence Higgins Trust)
  • Friday 24 July: Jules Kim (CEO of Scarlet Alliance)
  • In July-August, Chinwag will break for 4 weeks
  • Friday 28 August: Professor Sharon Lewin (Inaugural Director of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity)
  • Friday 11 September: Bruce Richman (Founding Executive Director of Prevention Access Campaign)

For any questions regarding this event, contact Charlie Tredway (Project Officer; Community Engagement) via email on charlie@napwha.org.au

MORE THANK YOUS

We had incredible team of HIV peer supporters from across Australia join us each week to provide valuable lived experience, one-on-one support and linkage to care:

  • Sarah from Living Positive Victoria
  • Glenn from Queensland Positive People
  • Ruan from Bobby Goldsmith Foundation
  • Neil from Positive Life NSW

We also would like to thank ViiV Healthcare for their support to help bring this initiative to life. It has been an honour getting to spend this time with every single person who attended.

Professor Sharon Lewin and Bruce Richman join Chinwag: Positive Connection

This is an initiative which is responding to a NAPWHA survey in April 2020 where we looked at the impact of COVID-19 on people living with HIV. From the 150 participants, the key things that stood out were the challenges of isolation and the need for meaningful interaction. 65% of participants selected Social Connection and 41% of participants chose Mental Health support as two of their most pressing needs right now.

This activity was made possible with the support of ViiV Healthcare Australia