National and state AIDS organisations have denounced the fifth National HIV/AIDS Strategy in their responses to the draft policy this week.

We think that it’s really inadequate and there’s no way it can take us into the next three years of trying to respond to a changing and now increasing epidemic, Stevie Clayton, CEO of ACON, told Sydney Star Observer.

Public submissions on the draft strategy are due in tomorrow (Friday 29 October), with the joint response from ACON and PLWHA (NSW) criticising the government’s 18-month-overdue strategy on a number of key issues.

The draft strategy focuses heavily on treatment issues for HIV-positive people but does not address broader health concerns such as mental health issues or social support for PLWHAs, Clayton said.

ACON were also critical of the draft strategy’s inclusion of a general STI strategy within the HIV/AIDS framework without providing dedicated funding.

There is clearly an area of overlap -¦ but to just try and include STIs into the strategy generally, will be incredibly problematic and will only see a diminution of the HIV response, Clayton said.

The draft also cites partnership between the government and affected communities as a priority, yet fails to include a positive person on the strategy’s driving body: the Ministerial Advisory Committee on AIDS, Sexual Health and Hepatitis (MACASHH).

While ACON’s response supported the priority status of clinical research in the draft, the diminished role of social and behavioural research was met with bewilderment.

Our only hope is, in the continuing consultation process that’s happening now, the government can get enough submissions that tell them they’ve got it wrong that they’ll actually listen and refine this before it goes out, Clayton said.

The response from the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations was not released publicly, but a briefing paper sent to members in September presented AFAO’s overall view that the current draft is fundamentally flawed in a range of important respects.

The AFAO briefing paper was also critical of the incorporation of a broader STI strategy within the strategy, the flawed MACASHH structure, and the fact that there is no specific reference to AFAO or its member organisations in the draft.

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