HIV and health advocates are calling for renewed investments in sexual health services along with greater efforts and coordination to close the gap in HIV between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians.
ACON, NSW’s leading HIV and sexuality and gender diverse health organisation, has launched a policy paper to highlight the challenges faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in relation to HIV and sexual health. Titled HIV in the NSW Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, the paper outlines key issues and sets out recommendations to improve health outcomes.
In NSW, 11 Aboriginal people (10 men and one woman) were diagnosed with HIV in 2018, increasing from eight when compared to the previous five year average.
Across Australia, there has been a 33 per cent increase in HIV notifications for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people between 2012 and 2016. In contrast, HIV notifications among Australian-born non-Indigenous people decreased by 22 per cent during the same period.
The paper, prepared in partnership by a panel of Aboriginal community members and HIV experts, with support from the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council, makes several recommendations, including:
- Ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are at the centre of a coordinated response to HIV
- Renewed investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sexual health services
- Improving access to HIV and STI prevention and testing in a range of settings
John Leha, one of the co-authors of the paper and Sustainability Lead at The National Centre of Indigenous Excellence, said: “This report is a great resource to engage with our communities and get the message out there that getting tested for HIV, using condoms or biomedical prevention options, and accessing treatment are vital”.
The paper has been launched during the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HIV Awareness Week (28 November to 5 December), a national event for raising communities’ awareness of HIV and getting everyone involved in reducing HIV notifications among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill said: “NSW has a world-leading HIV response with a comprehensive range of evidence-based HIV prevention technologies. Not only does this include condoms and new biomedical tools such as PrEP, but also the advances in treatment for people living with HIV that see viral loads suppressed to an undetectable level, meaning that transmission is virtually impossible.
“But not everyone in our communities is benefiting from these advances and there exists barriers preventing many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from accessing appropriate care and support in relation to HIV and sexual health.
“With this policy paper, we hope to shine a light on addressing these issues to improve the sexual health outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“Partnership is key to end HIV transmissions,” Parkhill added. “ACON is committed to working with, and supporting, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members, experts and organisations on improving access to sexual health services across the state.”
The HIV in the NSW Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population paper can be downloaded here.
David Alexander, ACON Media and Communications
+61 (0)428 477 042