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HIV end in sight: government
The Ending HIV campaign, a joint initiative between the government and ACON that was launched last Friday, will focus on the need for regular testing, early treatment of HIV-positive individuals and encouraging safe sex to bring down rates of new HIV infection among gay men by 80 per cent by 2020.
The campaign will seek to educate gay men about recent improvements in HIV treatment that reduce the risk of a HIV-positive person infecting others to historic lows, as well as new rapid-testing procedures being rolled out this year that shorten waiting times for HIV diagnosis from over a week to half an hour.
NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner, who launched the campaign last week, said there was a “real possibility” that HIV transmission could be virtually eliminated in NSW in the next seven years.
“New infections have more or less plateaued, but we want to make sure HIV/AIDS is no longer the scourge it has been. We’ve got to make it happen, and I think we can if we do it together,” Skinner said.
The campaign derives from the state government’s three-year HIV/AIDS strategy that was launched by Skinner on World AIDS Day last year.
ACON president Mark Orr said the campaign marked a turning point in the 30-year battle against HIV/AIDS.
“We have the opportunity to end the HIV epidemic within ten years. We need to do all we can to inspire gay men to make that history,” he said.
The Ending HIV launch came just a day after the Sydney Local Health District (SLHD) announced the start its own five-year plan targeting gay men, people living with HIV and young people in an effort to bring down the inner city’s disproportionately high rates of STIs.
SLHD chief executive Dr Teresa Anderson said that reducing the HIV transmission rate in central Sydney was a “top priority” of the plan.
“Demand for sexual health services in our area has always been high – we have the second-highest rate of HIV transmission in Australia. We want to be leaders in helping the NSW government bring that down,” she said.