Australian advocacy organisations and researchers have called on the government to set a new goal to end HIV transmission in the country in four short years. The new path to end transmission, comes on the 40th anniversary of the first reported case of HIV. The organisations said that the goal can be achieved with a surprisingly modest budget – but only if the Australian government adopts and implements the plan.

Considering how much money Australians have seen being spent on the public health response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the improvement in the technologies, the proposed investment of $53m per year in addition to a National Partnership Agreement with the States and Territories, seems like a no brainer.

The benefits of adopting the plan – Australia can avert over 6,000 infections by 2030 and save $1.4 billion in health costs.

Nation’s top HIV clinicians, researchers, community leaders and organisations, including the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations, the Kirby Institute, the Doherty Institute and others presented a consensus statement Agenda 2025: Ending HIV Transmission in Australia to Parliamentarians last week. 

The statement says that with an annual annual additional investment of $53 million and fresh policy settings, “HIV transmission could be ended within the next term of Parliament (by 2025). The statement calls for investment in prevention, testing and treatment, along with a renewed campaign against the stigma associated with HIV.”

“This month we entered the fifth decade of the HIV epidemic. If Parliamentarians adopt this plan, we can avoid entering a sixth. The previously unthinkable achievement of ending HIV transmission is entirely within reach, but only with new policy settings and additional investment,” said Darryl O’Donnell, chief executive of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations.

“In the last few years science and technology have outpaced regulation. We need a fresh approach that expedites approval and funding of new innovations such as self and rapid testing so that they can reach those who need it. We must take the learnings from COVID-19 and establish a new public health track so tests and medicines needed in the public interest get to consumers safely and quickly.”

90 % Reduction In Transmission

AFAO‘S website also clarifies their definition of elimination when it comes to their new goal of ending HIV transmission by 2025:  “Agenda 2025 adopts the UNAIDS definition of HIV elimination: a 90% reduction in Australian infections compared to a 2010 baseline.” 

“Australia has extremely low rates of HIV in sex workers and people who inject drugs and has virtually eliminated mother-to-child transmission. Two-thirds of new HIV diagnoses are in gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men. The rate of HIV among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is above that of Australian born non-Indigenous people. Additionally, an increasing proportion of HIV diagnoses are among people born overseas.”

“Eliminating HIV means we must reach all those affected, including people from priority populations, women and heterosexual men with HIV.”

The Kirby Institute’s Professor Andrew Grulich said the plan came at a timely moment in Australia’s HIV response.

“The rollout of new prevention technologies has led to a sharp decline in new HIV diagnoses amongst gay and bisexual men in inner cities, but progress elsewhere has been patchy. Australia has the opportunity to lead the world by going the final stretch,” said Grulich.

“Medical research has developed new methods of HIV prevention that are close to 100% effective. This plan for investment in prevention, testing, treatment and combating stigma provides the path forward for implementation which can deliver the virtual elimination of HIV.”

Australians LOVE PrEP!

As reported in the Star Observer in April this year, one of the main reasons we can even be considering the end of HIV Transmission with Agenda 2025 is our already low rates of HIV transmission, thanks in large part to Australia’s embrace of PrEP. With new dosing techniques available, you don’t even have to take a pill every day – you decide what’s best for you and your individual lifestyle!

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