NAPWHA President’s EOY Report

NAPWHA President’s EOY Report

Scott Harlum, NAPWHA President

2021 – what a year! Appropriately, it’s ending with a bang!

World AIDS Day Announcement – $39 Million Over 5 Years – for PLHIV who are ineligible for Medicare

On World AIDS Day, the Commonwealth Minister for Health, the Hon. Greg Hunt announced a new investment of $39m over five years to provide HIV treatment for people with HIV who are ineligible for Medicare through a new government scheme.

This partnership between the Commonwealth and the States and Territories delivers on the Minister’s commitment at World AIDS Day last year to seek a solution to this long-standing problem.

NAPWHA is elated that twenty years of advocacy has had such a positive outcome. We welcome this initiative which will close a gap in our response to HIV. We thank the Minister for Health for his vision and commitment to ending HIV transmissions in Australia.

As I type, media alerts announcing Minister Hunt’s intentions to retire at the next election have begun to appear, and perhaps we can thank, at least in part, the Minister’s intention to leave a legacy for the decision to fund ARV access for PLHIV who are ineligible for Medicare. Either way, it was at times an intense 12 months as we waited on a funding commitment to match the Minister’s announcement last year that he would seek to fix the Medicare ineligible issue … but then we found it had been left it out of the annual budget that followed!

However, it’s now done!

Thanks are due to all those who kept this issue on the agenda and worked towards this outcome over a staggering two decades. We thank the Minister for his vision and commitment.

National Peaks and Other Funding

Along with the Minister’s announcement of $39 million over five years to address access to ARVs for people without a Medicare card, the World AIDS Day commitments this year also contained additional funding for NAPWHA and the other Peak organisations. $11 million dollars shared across the peaks will deliver long-term capacity to deliver activity work for the next four years.

Whilst not the exciting and longstanding issue that is Medicare ineligibles, extended activity contracts with the Commonwealth will deliver long-term stability and should not be seen as any less of a win!

Our relationships with pharmaceutical companies have never been stronger. Generous grant funding from our industry partners combined with our contracts with the Commonwealth government will help us leverage significantly better value from each dollar. When compared with 2016 at least, our Association will enter 2022 in an impressive position to bring together vision, strategy, expertise and capacity with financial strength and security.

It takes dollars to do what NAPWHA does, and long-term challenges to our ability to properly resource the HIV response remain. But NAPWHA is healthy, and 2022 – our 41st year living with HIV – is gearing up to be one of our best ever.

Annual General Meeting and Election Outcome

Sincerest thanks to Sarah Feagan and NAPWHA’s staff for delivering another successful Annual General Meeting and Member’s Forum in late November – hopefully our last fully ‘virtual’ event for the time being.

Those with access to my Facebook feed will have seen a personal update recently with all the gory details which I won’t rehash here, but it is a fundamental role of a Vice President to be ready to step-up to ensure the seamless governance of an organisation when a President is unable. Sarah has proven herself immensely capable – not a surprise to anybody – in stepping up when I fell. She’s done a superb job as Acting President for the last month and a half. Thank you!

I am honoured to have been returned for a second term as President of NAPWHA as a result of the Board elections held this year. I am also thrilled that Danny Ryding has been appointed to the Secretary/Treasurer role. We warmly welcome Simon O’Connor (who re-joins the board) and, the Sydney-based Justin Xiao (who joins us for the first time).

Unfortunately, Michael Brown, who has made such a valued contribution to NAPWHA governance in the last two years, has commenced a new job in North Queensland. We completely understand Michael’s decision to focus all of his efforts on his new role in Indigenous sexual health, and we wish him every success.

Thank you also to Chris Howard who has served as NAPWHA Secretary/Treasurer for the past two years. In the end, an enormous existing workload and pressure to commit more time to NAPWHA clashed for Chris, as inevitably they do. Chris made the difficult decision to relieve some of the pressure by moving on from NAPWHA. Chris’ input to NAPWHA will continue through the Operational Leadership Group, of course, but his steady hand and experience will be sorely missed at Board level. Thank you, Chris.

The ‘Stuff’ To Come!

Rest up! Plans of 2019 interrupted by COVID19 are back on the agenda in 2022! That means a big year for us all!

At NAPWHA, we’ve a Strategic Plan to finalise, Rules to review, a MIPA/GIPA Audit of our own Association to implement, new national networks to establish, and better governance processes to develop – and that’s not the half of it!

NAPWHA Office Closure

NAPWHA’s Newtown office will be closed from 5pm on Friday the 17th December 2021 to 9am on Monday the 10th January 2022; while our staff take time for rest, recovery, self-care and reinvigoration.

Sarah Feagan, NAPWHA Vice President

Happy Holidays!

Sarah will continue as Acting President of NAPWHA for the remainder of 2021, then she too will take a well-earned break.

What my recent experience has taught me is that I didn’t have as much in reserve as I thought I had – and I suggest that’s probably the case for most of us! Whether in Melbourne (the most locked-down city on the planet), Sydney, rural Northern NSW or elsewhere in Australia, COVID19 has impacted us all in pervasive ways gnawed at our resilience and diminished our reserves.

Friends, enjoy your break – live it up, live it down, live it whatever way it takes to refresh and recharge.

And, we’ll see you next year.

Scott Harlum
President | 1 December 2021

NAPWHA joins voices with the Agenda 2025 blueprint for ‘Ending HIV’ in Australia

Canberra, Australia — 17 June 2021:  Australia can end HIV transmission within four short years, averting over 6,000 infections by 2030 and saving $1.4 billion in health costs, according to a costed plan that was presented to parliamentarians today.

Agenda 2025: Ending HIV Transmission in Australia is a consensus statement that draws on the expertise of the nation’s top HIV clinicians, researchers and community leaders, including the AFAO (Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations), the Kirby Institute, the Doherty Institute and many others.

It finds that with annual additional investment of $53 million and fresh policy settings, HIV transmission could be ended within the next term of parliament (by 2025). The statement calls for  investment in prevention, testing and treatment, along with a renewed campaign against the stigma associated with HIV.

Taken together, this would provide a path to a 90% reduction in HIV infections, compared to 2010. This requires 95% of people at risk of HIV using one or more forms of effective prevention; 95% of people with HIV diagnosed and treated; and 98% achieving undetectable viral load.

NAPWHA President, Scott Harlum, opened the launch of the AFAO Agenda 2025 with the message:

“The concept of ‘ending HIV’ is sometimes hard for people living with the virus to fathom.”

“For us, a world without HIV either means finding a cure or our own departure from this mortal plane. While we remain hopeful that a cure for HIV will be found some day, Agenda 25 demonstrates that ending the transmission of HIV is achievable and is within sight.”

“But, while it can be done – it can’t be done without us, and people with HIV remain dedicated to playing our part in achieving that end. People living with HIV have been and will remain integral to efforts to end HIV transmission in Australia – put simply, we know the market because we are the market.”

Find out more about the AFAO Agenda 2025 Blueprint: Ending HIV Transmission in Australia

Agenda 2025 is a fully costed plan which draws upon evidence based research and is backed by top researchers, leaders, and clinicians in Australia’s community-led HIV response.

With an annual additional investment of $53 million and fresh policy settings, HIV transmission could be ended within the next term of parliament. This statement calls for investment in prevention, testing and treatment, along with a renewed campaign against the stigma associated with HIV.

Read the full opening address by Scott Harlum at the Agenda 2025 launch

Thank you to the Australian Federation of AIDS Organizations (AFAO) and the Parliamentary Friends group for inviting the National Association of People With HIV Australia (NAPWHA) to be part of this launch of Agenda 2025 – a blueprint for ending HIV transmission in Australia.

The concept of ‘ending HIV’ is sometimes hard for people living with the virus to fathom.

For us, a world without HIV either means finding a cure or our own departure from this mortal plane.

But of course, ‘ending HIV’ means no such thing.

While we remain hopeful that a cure for HIV will be found some day, Agenda ’25 demonstrates that ending the transmission of HIV is achievable and is within sight.

But, while it can be done – it can’t be done without us, and people with HIV remain dedicated to playing our part in achieving that end.

People living with HIV have been and will remain integral to efforts to end HIV transmission in Australia – put simply, we know the market because we are the market.

Ask any of us what we fear the most and chances are that passing on this life-long virus to our friends and lovers is likely high on our list.

Before PrEP and PEP even, long before we even thought that treatment could provide prevention, we were ending HIV.

We were educating our partners in the bedroom and in the cubicles at the sauna, insisting on condoms when the option to not use them was there.

Even, in the early days, counselling friends and family to be careful not to use our razors or toothbrushes.

That’s why when treatments became easier to take, when we knew that taking them as soon as possible was better for us and even that treatment prevented transmission … it was a no brainer.

That’s why 92% of us are on treatment and why we are behind shifting this to 98%.

We’re also behind encouraging everyone to find the best treatment for them so that they can do their best to reach undetectable. And for those who can’t, to understand that any treatment is some form of prevention.

I want to briefly mention the latest United Nations Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS endorsed last week by the General Assembly.

I had the honour of representing people living with HIV in Australia as part of the Australian delegation to the High Level Meeting, albeit huddled by a blow heater in my office at home in the wee small hours via video, rather than on the floor of the general assembly.

I want to publicly congratulate Ambassador Fifield and the Australian Team who co-facilitated the session with Namibia for wrangling through the UN process a declaration which, while not perfect, is bold and progressive, and which recognises the central place of affected populations and communities in the global HIV response.

Amongst other things, the declaration adopted commits Australia to implementing the GIPA Principle, or the Greater Involvement of People Living with HIV, to play our critical leadership role in the HIV response.

The Declaration also commits Australia to increasing the proportion of HIV services delivered by communities and community-led organizations, and to the institutionalisation of peer-led responses to HIV.

The Greater Involvement of People Living With HIV has been a cornerstone of Australia’s world-renowned response to HIV, and it will need to continue to be if we are to achieve the goal of Ending HIV transmission in Australia as set out in Agenda 25 launched here today.

We are grateful that, amongst other things, that Agenda 25 includes quality of life and stigma markers and recognizes quality of life for people living with HIV as an important part of this Agenda.

And we are grateful that Agenda 25 more generally recognizes that people living with HIV are a vital force behind this movement, and critical to ending HIV transmission in Australia.

Agenda 25 is a bold and exciting plan – through its implementation we can end the transmission of HIV in Australia, and what a wonderful goal that is to commit ourselves to.

On behalf of NAPWHA, our positive member organisations and networks, and on behalf of the 30,000 or so people living with HIV in Australia, it is my great pleasure to endorse AFAO’s Agenda 25.

Thank you and good morning.