The Australian Government has announced a $22.45 million investment over four year for prevention programs to address increasing rates of sexual transmissible infections (STIs) and blood-borne viruses including HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
Federal Health Minister, Peter Dutton said the program targets priority populations including gay and bisexual men, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, culturally and linguistically diverse Australians, young people, people in rural and regional areas, and people who inject drugs.
Burnet Institute Head of HIV Research, Associate Professor Mark Stoové said new investments into the prevention of blood borne and sexually transmitted infections is a welcome and much-needed initiative.
“It is particularly pleasing that funds will explicitly target those most affected by these diseases. The additional targeting of rural and remote areas, where clinical and prevention service coverage is a major issue, is also welcome,” Associate Professor Stoové said.
“New funding for hepatitis B testing and treatment is desperately needed given the growing burden of advanced liver disease associated with long-standing and undiagnosed chronic infections.”
Associate Professor Stoové also said that while investment of new funds is a positive step, it is important the Commonwealth, alongside state governments, continue to explore policy and legislative approaches to support preventions.
“Medicare listing of rapid HIV tests and the removal of co-payments for pharmacotherapy should be a priority for the Commonwealth Government,” he said.
“Consideration of other approaches to prevention that are supported in many other countries, such as prison needle and syringe programs and supervised injecting facilities, would also deliver cost effective and evidence-based prevention outcomes.”