Victorians with HIV will be given free hepatitis B vaccinations from next year as part of a Government plan to protect positive people from additional health complications.

The announcement was made at the annual World AIDS Day gathering in the grounds of Parliament House last week.
Victorian Health Minister Daniel Andrews said the Government would provide $40,000 for the scheme.

“Hepatitis B infections have been noted as a real challenge… and some of the treatments you provide for hepatitis B are not compatible with leading forms of managing chronic HIV, so it’s much better to try and stop a person ever getting hepatitis B rather than treating the inevitable consequences of it,” Andrews told Southern Star.

“It’s a small thing but it’s a practical way we can support the care and treatment system and again next year those free vaccines will be available to all positive men and women.

“It’s about small steps and it’s about trying to improve the overall treatment system.”

Andrews confirmed there won’t be any additional funding to target young men, who’ve seen a 35 percent jump in new HIV infections from 2007-2008. Instead the money will come from the allocated $10.38 million funding from last year’s state budget.

“It’s often said attitudes have changed a bit and because HIV and AIDS are in broad terms manageable chronic illnesses and fewer people are dying, then perhaps people are not as aware and not as vigilant, particularly younger men as they once were in terms of safe sex.”

“So getting those messages out there in a targeted way… that’s something we’ve been doing and it’s something we’ll continue to do, because we think ultimately [Victoria] will see a stabilisation in younger positive cases this year and hopefully over time we can drive those numbers down.”
At the gathering, People Living With HIV/AIDS Victoria president Paul Kidd called on the community to consider the impact discrimination still has on positive people.

“This year the theme for World AIDS Day is ‘Take Action. No Discrimination’. The theme reflects the need for a continuing effort to reduce the impact of HIV while respecting and reinforcing the human rights of people living with the virus,” Kidd said.

“It is a message for governments, communities and individuals alike.”

Positive Speakers Bureau representative Dr Susan Paxton said people’s ignorance and fear of HIV is the main driver of discrimination for people living with HIV.

“I’ve faced stigma and discrimination in the health sector. One time a doctor asked me, ‘A druggie, are we?’

“Another time, I was in a serious accident and split the bridge of my nose. After I told the doctor I was HIV positive, she backed away and refused to touch me, leaving me lying in a pool of blood. Such a response is not uncommon.”

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