Three community organisations have released a joint document for the Victorian government elected at the next state election, outlining 27 actions to improve the lives of people living with HIV.

Thorne Harbour Health, Living Positive Victoria, and Positive Women Victoria have produced HIV and AIDS Priorities, a document covering HIV-related law reform as well as desired improvements around areas of stigma and discrimination.

Chief Executive of Thorne Harbour Health, Simon Ruth, said the document was designed to help guide the next Victorian government’s policy responses.

“Victoria’s sexual health service infrastructure has failed to keep up with the state’s population growth and is impeding our efforts to effectively tackle HIV and high rates of other STIs,” he said.

“We need to look for ways to expand our prevention and treatment service systems through GPs and hospitals across Victoria.

“Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) should be available at every hospital and cost barriers to treatment should be removed.”

Major strides have been made when it comes to the prevention and treatment of HIV, allowing people living with the virus to live normal lifespans. Those with sustained undetectable viral loads (UVL) have no risk of transmitting HIV, and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) has been widely used as a preventative tool.

According to recent data released by the state government’s department of health, there has been a 22 per cent drop in new cases of HIV in Victoria this year.

The 57 new cases of HIV reported between April and June has brought Victoria’s year-to-date total up to 130 cases, a 22 per cent decrease from the same period in 2017.

Despite this, the new document calls for increased funding and accessibility around prevention and treatment, as a way to reach the state’s 2020 goal of having 90 per cent of people living with HIV aware of their status, on treatment, and achieving undetectable viral loads.

Actions outlined in the document to achieve this include implementing a PrEP access scheme for Medicare ineligibles, increasing funding for community-controlled sexual health services, and subsidising co-payments for HIV treatments.

Chief Executive of Living Positive Victoria, Richard Keane, believes stigma and discrimination also need to be tackled by the next state government.

“Anti-stigma campaigns should be funded, and family and peer support programs should be developed and extended,” he said.

“Unnecessary HIV disclosure should be discouraged through new guidelines.”

Executive Officer at Positive Women Victoria, Kirsty Machon, said women require a specific focus as well.

“[The incoming government] needs to ensure that health promotion messages and prevention programs are having an impact, that testing rates for women are increased through targeted and appropriate outreach, and that all women are diagnosed in a timely manner, accessing the treatment they need, and with referral to support and services,” she said.

Last month, the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (VGLRL) – in collaboration with groups such as Thorne Harbour Health, Transgender Victoria, and Rainbow Families Victoria – released an LGBTI election booklet outlining 59 recommendations they wanted political parties to consider ahead of the state election.

Victoria’s state election will take place on Saturday 24 November.

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