The success of HIV treatment in Queensland has seen state health officials remove AIDS from its monitored disease list.

Health Minister Steven Miles attributed the shift to the introduction of highly active anti-retroviral treatments for HIV in 1996.

The sustained efforts of Queensland Positive People (QPP) and the Queensland AIDS Council (QuAC) were recognised as contributing significantly to the reduction in AIDS diagnoses.

“In 2017, there were 12 new cases of AIDS reported in Queensland,” Miles said.

“Compared to the late 80s and early 90s, where there were hundreds of AIDS cases notified each year, this is a significant achievement which is largely due to highly active anti-retroviral treatments for HIV.

“These treatments lower the viral load of HIV in the blood to virtually undetectable levels, which means they do not transmit HIV to their partners.

“Research shows that people living with HIV who are on this treatment and have an undetectable viral load do not develop AIDS.”

While HIV will remain on the list of notifiable diseases, AIDS will be removed so that prevention efforts can be better directed towards the goal of ending HIV.

“The objective of the notifiable conditions schedule is to monitor and respond to diseases that are considered a public health risk because the disease can spread,” he said.

“HIV is the public health risk, not AIDS, which is why we’re making changes to remove it from the notifiable conditions schedule.”

Miles noted that the need to ensure regular sexual health testing and dissemination of inclusive sexual health information to high-risk communities was greater than ever.

“While HIV has reduced significantly in the past three decades, it remains an important health issue in our communities, with 185 new cases reported in 2017.

“Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV is now available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and, coupled with condoms, continues to provide one of the most effective ways to prevent HIV.”

QuAC President Peter Black said the progress could be attributed to the important community support provided by organisations like QuAC and QPP, as well as the scientific advancements that continue to revolutionise HIV prevention.

Recent studies continue to provide evidence that undetectable equals untransmissible, or U=U.

“The Queensland AIDS Council welcomes this decision,” Black said.

“While it is undoubtedly a tribute to the scientific and community response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic over several decades, there remains much work to be done to end HIV transmission in this state.”

QPP President Mark Coulter noted that the decision is “a timely reminder for all those who believe they may have been at risk to be tested for HIV in order to take early advantage of these life-changing treatment regimens.”

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