THE Victorian Government recently announced its latest health and wellbeing plan, revealing a key focus on sexual health and HIV in the local community.

A Victorian Public Health and Wellbeing Plan is required every four years and helps outline the government’s priorities to improve the health of disadvantaged Victorians.

[showads ad=MREC]The 2015–2019 plan lists sexual and reproductive health as one of the six key areas for action, including a reinstated commitment to end new HIV transmissions by 2020.

Health Minister Jill Hennessy said the government needs to ensure more Victorians are seeking advice and treatment for HIV.

“In the recent state budget, the government provided more funding for PRONTO!, an innovative program that provides free, confidential and fast HIV and syphilis tests because we recognise the important role they play in community health and prevention,” she told the Star Observer.

“We need to reduce the stigma associated with sexual health and STIs and take the topic off the ‘taboo’ list so that Victorians feel more comfortable seeking advice and treatment.”

There were 306 notifications of diagnosis of HIV in 2013, the highest rates being among people between 25–29 years old.

The plan mentions working towards eliminating HIV and significantly increasing treatment rates as one of the government’s strategies in the coming years.

“It is so important that we as a community keep having the conversation about safe sex and raise awareness about the importance of regular testing and early treatment,” Hennessy said.

The plan also acknowledges that sexual health is expressed through diverse sexual identities, and requires freedom from discrimination and violence.

Living Positive Victoria chief executive Brent Allan said he was pleased HIV and sexual health had been included in the plan.

“We are heartened that after more than 10 years without a Victorian state strategy on HIV and STIs, that the government is investing in long term planning which will hopefully send a virtual end of HIV infections in Victoria,” he said.

“We’re looking forward to working with the government and our partners to help achieve zero transmissions by 2020.”

During the 2014 International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australian health ministers from federal and state levels committed to the virtual elimination of HIV transmission by 2020.

Hennessy said the plan would work to achieve this goal.

“We know more work needs to be done to improve the health and wellbeing of all Victorians, and this Plan is the road map to achieving this,” she said.

The plan was developed in consultation with over 200 people from leading health organisations, local governments and healthcare services providers.

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