HIV organisations have welcomed the long-overdue release of Australia’s sixth National HIV Strategy.

It is over a year late, but state and federal governments have unanimously endorsed a set of five new national strategies for HIV, hepatitis B, sexually transmitted infections, hepatitis C and blood-borne viruses in Indigenous communities.

AFAO president Graham Brown welcomed the new HIV strategy, which aims for a significant reduction in HIV transmission rates and increased standards of living for people with HIV over the next three years.

“What we have now is a national strategy able to engage with an increasingly diverse epidemic, without taking away from the fact gay and bisexual men are still bearing the brunt of it.”

Rising HIV rates in Indigenous communities and the impacts of travel to countries with a high prevalence of HIV will receive increased attention, although gay and bisexual men are still top priority.

Brown said the new strategy which was developed with strong involvement from the community sector, provided a realistic approach to Australian epidemics, and provided “a strong policy framework to advocate for what is required”.

“The need for effective and sustained interventions is stipulated more clearly now. We won’t have to argue for particular types of programs, and won’t have to start from scratch each time we have those conversations.

“I am excited about this strategy, which states clear directions around what needs to happen, but there are areas that could have taken a bolder approach,” Brown said. He explained state governments had remained reluctant to increase clean injecting programs, or make changes to sex work regulations.

info: For more information, visit www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/ohp-natioal-strategies-2010

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