The National Association of People with HIV Australia (NAPWHA), the peak non-government organisation representing community based people living with HIV welcome the release of eighth National HIV Strategy by the Australian government.
NAPWHA, alongside other peak organisations, was consulted during in the development of the strategies, ensuring that the strategies would provide a strong platform for a high quality and coordinated national response to HIV over the coming five years. During this consultation phase, the Femfatale network – NAPWHA’s national network and advisory group for women living with HIV, ran a series of symposia to ensure the voices of HIV positive women were heard. The key messages from these symposia was overwhelmingly for the representation of women across the priority populations.
“Women are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, we are injecting drug users, we are culturally and linguistically diverse and we travel to countries of high (HIV) prevalence. We are trans and gender diverse, we are sex workers, and we are in custodial settings. As a woman living with HIV for more than 30 years and the chair of Femfatales, I am pleased to see that the voices of women have been heard and outcomes for women embedded across the strategy. Myself and the Femfatale network are looking forward to working with the Commonwealth in the implementation of this strategy to apply a gender lens to all aspects of the HIV response to ensure women’s needs are considered and addressed”, said Femfatale chair Katherine Leane.
Women are represented across seven of the eight priority populations identified in the 8th National Strategy
Positive Women Victoria President, Heather Ellis stated: “Positive Women Victoria advocated strongly for the better inclusion of women in the strategies and rigorous outcome measures. Throughout the life of the strategy we will be working collaboratively to make sure that these outcomes are achieved for women”
NAPWHA supports the message that HIV testing is for everyone and that all women should be informed about HIV and have access to a HIV test as a part of their routine sexual health screening, in an environment free from stigma.
Unfortunately women are overrepresented in late presentations of HIV which creates significant health disparities. More regular and frequent testing is one method to address this and is supported by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approval of the Australian-devised and manufactured Atomo HIV Self-Test – a single-use rapid finger prick test that is expected to be available for online purchase in early-2019. This test will improve the frequency, regularity and access to testing which is a key action area in the Eighth National HIV Strategy 2018–2022.
NAPWHA member organisations offer vital peer support to women living with HIV and encourage any woman who feels they are the isolated or the‘only one’ to reach out to their local service or directly to NAPWHA.
NAPWHA are committed to supporting the implementation of this strategy and the other national strategies to work towards the elimination of BBVs as a public health threat, and to reduce the impact of STIs for all Australians.
Peak HIV, viral hepatitis, sexual health and community organisations today welcomed the release of five new National Blood Borne Virus (BBV) and Sexually Transmissible Infections (STI) Strategies by the Australian government.
The peak organisations were closely involved and consulted heavily in the development of the strategies, ensuring they provide a strong platform for a high quality and coordinated national response to BBVs and STIs over the coming five years.
The release was accompanied by the announcement from Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt of $5 million in initial funding to support the implementation of the strategies at a national level, with further investment to be announced in coming months.
The peak organisations are committed to supporting the implementation of the strategies to work towards the elimination of BBVs as a public health threat, and to reduce the impact of STIs for all Australians.
“These are ambitious strategies, with strong goals and targets to reduce infections and provide excellent care. Australia is one of the few places in the world that has the opportunity to deliver on this ambition. Doing so will require determination and intensive effort.”
Darryl O’Donnell, Chief Executive Officer of Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO)
“We applaud the government for actively listening to and engaging with peak health and community organisations and giving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voice to the five strategies. These strategies have a strong emphasis on community empowerment. They centre around community-led education and cement the critical role of alternative models of care for our people played by Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) and nurse or Aboriginal Health Worker-led programs.”
“The focus is on building healthy communities and a strong multidisciplinary workforce of health professionals. Whilst acknowledged in the strategies, it is also of critical importance that there is a focus on harm reduction, particularly in custodial settings where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples are grossly overrepresented.”
Dr Ben Armstrong, Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) spokesperson
“AIVL is particularly delighted that custodial settings are named as priority settings in the new National Strategies. It is vitally important that people entering and exiting custodial contexts are not forgotten, particularly as they are returning to their families and communities. Ensuring access to the full suite of preventive, harm reduction measures – and ensuring that people are able to continue their engagement with treatments post-release – are tangible ways that we can protect more Australians from contracting BBVs and STIs. The strategies refer specifically to ‘evidence-based harm reduction and demand reduction programs such as provision of sterile needles and syringes’ in custodial settings within this context.”
Melanie Walker, Chief Executive Officer of Australian Injecting and Illicit Drug Users League (AIVL)
“The strategies profile the critical role of primary care in supporting a sustained and accelerated response to BBV and STI. ASHM are excited to continue to support primary care and other healthcare professionals to provide effective care for all people living with BBV and STI.”
“Identifying and scaling up successful innovative models of STI service delivery tailored to the needs of priority populations and sub-populations (including multidisciplinary team approaches and shared-care models) is a key action point in the Fourth National STI Strategy.”
“While we applaud the success of PrEP and Treatment as Prevention (TasP) in making great progress to HIV elimination goals, rebalancing concerns about equity of access will be an area to address – particularly for localities outside inner metropolitan areas and for Medicare ineligible individuals. We further welcome the announced additional funding that can used towards strengthening the capacity of the existing health care system (particularly sexual health centres) in our response to the concerning rise in STI, such as gonorrhoea and syphilis.”
Alexis Apostolellis, Chief Executive Officer of Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM)
“We have a big task ahead to realise the goals within these strategies, but it can be done. Hepatitis Australia looks forward to working in partnership with all stakeholders to engage each of the hepatitis B and hepatitis C communities in gold-standard prevention and care and continue efforts to help individuals to live free from stigma and discrimination.”
Helen Tyrrell, Chief Executive Officer of Hepatitis Australia
“NAPWHA applaud the ambitious goals across these new strategies and are particularly pleased to see a continued and renewed emphasis on support for people living with HIV in the Eighth National HIV Strategy. Commitment to getting people who are newly diagnosed onto HIV treatment quickly and providing appropriate care and clinical support in stigma-free environments is vital to ensure people are retained in care and stay on treatment to achieve an undetectable viral load.”
“NAPWHA are particularly delighted to see the importance and value of peer support recognised in the HIV strategy and are excited to see how this is represented in the implementation plan.”
Dr John Rule, Acting Executive Director National Association of People with HIV Australia (NAPWHA)
“The National Strategies importantly recognise the crucial need to address the social drivers of BBV and STIs and the structural barriers to health, including the impact of stigma and discrimination and legal and human rights issues on people’s health. These remain significant hurdles in achieving the elimination and management of BBV and STI and equitable access to quality health care for all. Addressing these will be vital in ensuring no one is left behind.”
Jules Kim, Chief Executive Officer of Scarlet Alliance
Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM) is the peak body representing the HIV, viral hepatitis and sexual health workforce. http://ashm.org.au
Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) is the national federation for the HIV community response providing leadership, coordination and support to Australia’s policy, advocacy and health promotion response to HIV/AIDS. https://www.afao.org.au
Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) is a not-for-profit, member-based, professional association supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical students and doctors. https://aida.org.au
Australian Injecting and Illicit Drug Users League (AIVL) is the national organisation representing people who use/have used illicit drugs and is the peak body for the state and territory peer-based drug user organisations. http://aivl.org.au/
Hepatitis Australia is the peak community organisation to progress national action on issues of importance to people affected by hepatitis B and hepatitis C. https://www.hepatitisaustralia.com
National Association of people with HIV Australia (NAPWHA) is Australia’s peak non-government organisation representing community-based groups of people living with HIV. https://napwha.org.au/
ASHM, Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) and National Association of People with HIV Australia (NAPWHA) have welcomed the Australian government’s release of five new National Blood Borne Virus (BBV) and Sexually Transmissible Infections (STI) Strategies in the lead up to World AIDS Day tomorrow.
The National Strategies acknowledge the crucial role of national health and community organisations in ensuring the success of the framework and agreed direction for a high-quality and coordinated national response to BBV and STI for 2018–2022.
“ASHM is pleased that our inputs have been incorporated across five of these strategies in HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, sexual health and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. This includes key areas for action to increase the knowledge and awareness of BBV and STIs among general practitioners and primary care professionals. Ensuring that a highly-skilled, multidisciplinary health workforce is respectful of and responsive to the needs of people with or at-risk of BBV and STIs,” said ASHM CEO, Alexis Apostolellis.
“Also, to achieve our goals, we will need to engage beyond specialist services – extending the workforce development reach to medical practitioners and allied health workers who are not yet engaged in PrEP, HIV, STI, viral hepatitis care. Breaking down stigma in healthcare settings and towards otherwise underserved populations is also an imperative.”
“NAPWHA successfully advocated for the inclusion of targets for stigma reduction and improving quality of life for HIV positive people. We welcome the inclusion of Meaningful Involvement of People Living with HIV (MIPA) and Greater Involvement of People Living with HIV (GIPA) listed as guiding principles in the new Eighth National HIV Strategy 2018–2022. The MIPA and GIPA principles are critical inclusion in improving the relevance, acceptability and effectiveness of program development in HIV responses. Through access to better information about care and prevention, this ultimately reduces the unacceptable stigma and discrimination that people living with HIV can experience,” said NAPWHA Acting Executive Director, Dr John Rule.
“NAPWHA are also delighted to see reference to peer support across the strategies and look forward to working with the Commonwealth on developing these through the strategy implementation process”.
Both NAPWHA and ASHM advocated for inclusion of Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U) — the social campaign highlighting the research to-date that has found that people with HIV who take ART and achieve and maintain sustained viral suppression have effectively no risk of sexually transmitting the virus to an HIV-negative partner, which has been acknowledged in the Eighth National HIV Strategy 2018–2022. “Much investment is yet needed, however, the powerful combination of PrEP and U=U (and Treatment as Prevention) positions Australia well to potentially be one of the first countries in the world to eliminate HIV transmission,” Dr John Rule adds.
AIDA spokesperson, Dr Ben Armstrong said, “It is both impressive and appreciated that the Government have actively included an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voice on issues regarding BBV and STI and how they affect all Australians, including our Indigenous Peoples. We also appreciate that they have worked hard to include our input in these strategies, and that our voices form part of a strategy spanning five years, at the state and national levels.”
The release also comes with Health Minister, Greg Hunt’s announcement of accompanying down-payment investment – an additional $5 million in funding to support the implementation of the strategies at a national level.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has approved the Australian-devised and manufactured Atomo HIV Self-Test – a single-use rapid finger prick that is expected to be available for online purchase in early-2019. Improving the frequency, regularity and access to testing is a key action area in the Eighth National HIV Strategy 2018–2022.
ASHM publishes the HIV, hepatitis C and hepatitis B testing portal to ensure best practice for health professionals when providing, interpreting and delivering results to patients. This portal will be updated in early-2019 to reflect the newly announced changes in self-testing – with information that advocates proper access and linkages to services.
Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM) is the peak body representing the HIV, viral hepatitis and sexual health workforce. Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) is a not-for-profit, member-based, professional association supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical students and doctors. NAPWHA is Australia’s peak non-government organisation representing community-based groups of people living with HIV.
NAPWHA is pleased to announce the appointment of Katy Roy to the position of National Policy Manager.Katy brings 16 years’ experience in the HIV sector across NGOs and health services — most recently as the HIV Program Manager at ASHM. Katy will lead on NAPWHA’s strategic policy and advocacy work; strengthen PLHIV engagement in policy development; and enhance communication with NAPWHA’s networks, member organisations and external partners.
NAPWHA would also like to announce the appointment of Dr John Rule to the position of Senior Research Manager. Dr Rule brings nearly 20 years’ experience in the HIV sector and an extensive range of academic research achievements to NAPWHA. John will lead on NAPWHA’s community research projects; support PLHIV community participation in research; and improve research collaboration and coordination between NAPWHA and its member organisations.
NAPWHA-CHPNG Psychology of HIV Treatments Workshop Port Moresby from 20 May 2015
A NAPWHA-led one-day workshop on HIV treatments-related challenges faced by people living with HIV (PLHIV) has been conducted in Port Morseby on 20 May 2015, with aims to draw out the psychology of HIV treatment in Papua New Guinea (PNG). A similar workshop was later conducted in Lae, PNG’s second largest city in the Morobe Province, in October 2015.
In collaboration with the Igat Hope Incorporation, Dr John Rule from the NAPWHA and Ruth Hennessy, senior clinical psychologist at the Albion Centre in Sydney, facilitated the workshop.
The workshop was attended by 35 PLHIV and was held to help people meet their HIV treatment needs, understand the benefits of taking HIV antiretroviral treatment (ART), and identify the reasons why PLHIV were not taking their medications.
Dr Rule, who is also a conjoint lecturer at the School of Public Health and Community Medicine, UNSW, said that PLHIV in PNG faced a number of challenges in accessing and continuing on ART. Some situations are improving for PLHIV but further work is required.
The treatments-related challenges experienced by PLHIV in PNG include:
Low levels of treatment literacy among PLHIV, exacerbated by an absence of readily available and accessible treatments information;
Scarcity of healthcare practitioners with the knowledge and experience necessary for supporting PLHIV with treatments decision;
High levels of HIV-related prejudice and discrimination, which discourage PLHIV from seeking treatment and/or community and family support;
Scarcity of peer support opportunities for PLHIV;
Increasing anti-ARV rhetoric from a number of evangelical churches that actively discourage PLHIV from taking treatment;
A vibrant market in HIV ‘cure’ of both traditional and imported kind;
Problems with interrupted drug supply, especially in areas outside NCD
The workshop was timely as Igat Hope has begun to increase its advocacy around the psychology of compliance. Twelve PLHIV have been recruited at eight provincial hospitals as peer counsellors helping others on treatment regimens.
Hennessey said that the workshop was the first of its kind where PLHIV were able to talk openly about the challenges in accessing ART. “There are a lot of similar challenges faced by PLHIV around the country,” she said.
The workshop was funded by the Collaboration for Health in Papua New Guinea (CHPNG) an initiative supported by a number of pharmaceutical companies in Australia. NAPWHA works with PLHIV in PNG as part of CHPNG activities.