The new president of Australia’s peak AIDS body has called for a renewal of balance to the HIV partnership that has seen the community’s input “diminished”.
Dr Graham Brown takes over from outgoing AFAO president Ian Rankin, and comes from a background in public health education at Curtin University and the Western Australian AIDS Council.
He’ll be joined at the table by another new face, Health Minister Nicola Roxon, allowing AFAO to reintroduce ideas knocked back under the Howard Government.
A key issue will be restoring the balance between government, community and research in the HIV partnership, the unique Australian solution that became globally recognised as best practice.
“The community sector voice at different levels of the partnership has certainly decreased over successive national strategies and Federal-level policies,” Brown said.
“It’s one of those items worth putting back on the table.”
The AIDS councils and organisations that make up the Federation will now examine what other policies need reintroducing.
In Brown’s home state of WA, gay men make up just under half of HIV infections – a very different situation from Sydney where infection rates are stable, but where more than 90 percent are gay men.
Brown said it was his job to understand those state differences and engage with them to keep the response nationally focused.
“Every state has quite a different experience of the epidemic. There would be the same challenge if the person was from NSW, would the position be too Sydney-centric?” he said.
“Great success in NSW has an impact on every other state; just as the success and challenges in every other state has an impact on NSW.”
The diversifying of the epidemic was the biggest challenge over the coming years, Brown said, as strategies that worked for gay men or injecting drug users may not work in new communities of concern such as indigenous or young people.
“My fear is that we’ll have the same amount of funding, the same needs, but split across several communities,” he said.
While AFAO’s role is to work with all the communities affected by HIV, most of its member AIDS councils have transformed into gay and lesbian community health bodies, and created the GLBT Health Alliance.
“We’re going to get better outcomes reducing HIV when working with a strong, healthy community generally. In that sense, it’s appropriate for AFAO to be supporting initiatives like the GLBT Health Alliance,” Brown said.
“AFAO’s role comes back to the HIV partnership. Also, AFAO works with a broader range of communities.”

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