While HIV diagnoses have increased in Australia over recent years, so too has our knowledge of how to prevent HIV transmission.
On the eve of the Sydney Mardi Gras, one of Australia’s leading medical research and public health organisations, the Burnet Institute, is calling for increased government and philanthropic support to implement new and innovative prevention strategies and fund research to help maximise their impact.
“As Australia’s GLBTI community celebrates the 37th Sydney Mardi Gras the world is entering a new HIV prevention era,” head of HIV Research at Burnet’s Centre for Population Health, Associate Professor Mark Stoové said.
More than 35 million people around the world live with HIV and tragically it still claims the lives of more than two million each year.
“While in many parts of the world we have been extraordinarily successful in reducing HIV transmissions, largely through the benefits of increased access to life saving HIV drugs, progress has stalled or is going backwards in some regions and among some risk groups,” Associate Professor Stoové said.
“In many countries of our region, men who have sex with men and people who use drugs are often unable to access HIV or other harm reduction services because of their fear of discrimination and harassment, or because the resources simply are not available. This contributes to increased spread of infection but also an increased risk of tuberculosis, hepatitis and other infectious diseases.
“We have new biomedical prevention tools at our disposal and new HIV point-of-care technologies, like Burnet’s innovative, low-cost VISITECT® CD4 test. Combined with comprehensive access to primary prevention, such as condoms and clean needles and syringes, and support for the human rights of marginalised risk groups, the world can effectively end the HIV epidemic over coming decades.”
Associate Professor Stoové said it’s important to address the challenges that exist in Australia.
“Over recent years we have welcomed policy and regulatory progress made around rapid HIV testing and the removal of legislative barriers to HIV self-testing,” he said.
“But it is essential that further regulatory and policy reform occurs to keep pace with rapidly evolving prevention knowledge, including the approval of reliable self-testing technologies and PrEP. It is equally important that investment is made in research in Australia to ensure these approaches are implemented in a way that produces the greatest benefit.
“In Australia and globally, we must demand that governments support policies and invest in services that allow those living with HIV access to life saving drugs that also help them protect their partners and also provide those at risk of HIV access to the full suite of old and new HIV prevention tools” Associate Professor Stoové said.