State and Commonwealth health ministers must come together on HIV policy, federal Parliamentary Secretary for Health Mark Butler urged at the opening of the 11th Social Research Conference on HIV, Hepatitis C and Related Diseases.
Opening the two-day conference in Sydney, Butler alluded to the impending release of Australia’s sixth National HIV Strategy.
Members of the HIV sector have been waiting over a year and a half for the release of the new strategy.
Butler said the new policy document could come into effect by the end of this month, pending the endorsement of state and Commonwealth health ministers at the National Health Ministers Conference scheduled for late April.
For the first time, there would be five separate strategies incorporated in one plan, including strategies for addressing hepatitis, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sexual health, general sexually transmitted infections and an HIV strategy, Butler said.
Strategy drafts, released at the end of 2009, indicated greater recognition would be given to a holistic approach to the health and wellbeing of people living with HIV.
“I think [the new strategies] will be a vast improvement on the previous strategies,” Butler said. He encouraged community health workers to petition health ministers to not get caught up in state versus Commonwealth arguments, but to accept the new policies.
“If they’re endorsed, they will be important tools in reversing trends [in rising numbers of new HIV infections].”

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