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Priority actions recommended to address HIV in Australia

Media release

Curtin University researchers have recommended a suite of priority action areas to address the current gaps in Australia’s response to Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and help meet the nation’s goal of ending HIV transmission by 2022.

The recommendations, released today on the eve of World AIDS Day tomorrow, include six priority action areas to address the increasing proportion of Australian HIV cases among people travelling to and from high HIV prevalence countries. It builds on previous work championed by Curtin University in the area of HIV and mobility.

Lead author Ms Corie Gray, from the School of Public Health at Curtin University, said travel and mobility had increased dramatically over the last 60 years, contributing to the transmission of infectious diseases globally including HIV.

“The relationship between HIV and mobility is complex and the experiences of people travelling to and from regions of high HIV prevalence, including their sexual practices and behaviours, and access to resources and health services, are not well understood,” Ms Gray said.

“In the last decade, we have seen an increase in HIV diagnoses in Australia and we believe mobility is a contributing risk factor, with more than 37.7 million crossings of Australia’s international border in 2016.”

The six priority action areas include introducing state-specific responses to HIV among people travelling to and from high HIV prevalence countries, improving health literacy and HIV testing capabilities, providing access to HIV treatments for temporary visa holders, utilising surveillance data, and assessing the effectiveness of HIV programs for mobile and migrant populations.

Ms Gray said Australia’s response to HIV was widely recognised as one of the best in the world, which is supported by a commitment to the engagement of affected communities and partnerships between community, government and the health and research sectors.

“The new recommendations have been released in response to the launch of the 8th National Strategy, in which people from, and people who travel to, high HIV prevalence countries are considered priority populations in Australia’s response to HIV,” Ms Gray said.

“It calls for an integrated and targeted response to addressing increasing rates of HIV in priority populations and its actions support the implementation of Australia’s response to the serious and growing issue.

“While other key documents outline approaches to addressing HIV more broadly, there is a need for strategies that specifically address people travelling to and from high HIV prevalence countries. These recommendations will work to further operationalise the Australian response to HIV and mobility and future updates to national and jurisdictional policies relating to HIV.”

Curtin University leads a national Community of Practice for Action on HIV and Mobility (CoPAHM), with over 80 members across the country monitoring action on HIV and mobility. Members from government and non-government organisations, research centres and peak bodies interested in HIV and mobility have supported the development of the report.

The recommendations, ‘HIV and Mobility in Australia: Priority Actions,’ have received endorsement from 21 national organisations working in sexual health and HIV.