Burnet’s newly appointed Director for Disease Elimination, Associate Professor Heidi Drummer has outlined the Institute’s strategy for infectious disease elimination to guests at our first donor function for 2017.
In her keynote address, Making history: the road to infectious disease elimination, Associate Professor Drummer said the elimination of HIV, malaria, TB and viral hepatitis is now a real possibility.
“To eradicate those diseases we need the complete suite of tools, we need vaccines to prevent new infections, we need treatments that can actually cure people, and we need to implement harm reduction measures to prevent people from becoming exposed to the viruses in the first place,” she said.
“But of course we don’t have all the tools for the four diseases that we’re working on – we don’t have effective vaccines for hepatitis C, malaria, HIV or TB.
“We have fabulous treatments now for hepatitis C that can cure more than 95 percent of people in three months, but it’s still very dependent on delivering services to people and identifying who needs treatment.”
Associate Professor Drummer said one of Burnet’s unique strengths in delivering elimination programs is that we have the full breadth of the capacity that’s needed for elimination.
“We have world leading researchers that are developing vaccines and point of care diagnostic tests to identify people with hepatitis C and HIV,” she said.
“We have expertise and a longstanding reputation in delivering harm reduction measures to the community to identify risks associated with acquiring new infections.
“And this allows us to put together a much more programmatic response to disease elimination that really harnesses all of our skills in those areas to bring together the best tools and strategies so that we can reduce the number of new infections and treat people with existing infections.”
The guests also heard from special guest speaker, Heather Ellis, who has lived with HIV for 21 years.
Heather is a former News Ltd journalist and mother of three children, who were all born free of HIV.
She is the author of Ubuntu: One Woman’s Motorcycle Odyssey Across Africa, a compelling travel memoir published last year.
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