Victorian Health Minister David DavisThe Victorian Coalition Government takes a strong interest in health issues impacting on the GLBTI community, and we are proud of our close relationship through the Ministerial Advisory Committee.

The MAC gives representatives of the community a direct link through to me and to Mental Health Minister Mary Wooldridge, and both the Government and myself are willing to listen and to consult on developing and implementing specific policies and programs.

HIV/AIDS is a significant issue for the GLBTI community and as such it is also a focus of the Government.

Since 1996 there have been major improvements in anti-retroviral therapies and the management of HIV and AIDS related illness. These scientific and medical developments have substantially changed the treatment landscape and the lives of people living with HIV, and enabled them to have longer, healthier and more fulfilling lives.

The Coalition Government was also at the forefront in developing the PRONTO Rapid HIV Testing service in Fitzroy, which we announced in the State Budget and which I launched on August 14.

PRONTO is a community based, peer led service that aims to promote early detection and early treatment of HIV. We know that effective early treatment reduces the viral load of an individual and therefore the risk of onward transmission, leading to better health outcomes for the individual and the broader community.

This is consistent with recent advancements in science that evidence Treatment as Prevention as a key tool to reduce the impact of HIV and AIDS.

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These achievements are part of the focus of World AIDS Day on December 1 this year, and the International AIDS Conference being hosted by Melbourne next year.

 

The International AIDS Conference in July will be the largest medical conference ever held in Australia, and is expected to host more than 14,000 delegates from almost 200 countries.

This shows how important this issue is in the global community, and equally how important it is to the Victorian Government.

World AIDS Day will mark the 32nd anniversary of the first confirmed case of HIV/AIDS, and the 22nd anniversary of the first public wearing of the red ribbon.

The work of the Ministerial Advisory Committee ensures that HIV/AIDS, and other issues of importance to the GLBTI community, come to our notice.

Good mental health is an issue of concern for many people in the community..

The Government has committed $4 million over four years for suicide prevention and early intervention services targeting same-sex attracted and gender-diverse young people.

Young people from these groups are often at risk of poor social and emotional wellbeing and significant psychological distress, and our investment is helping them get back on track.

Rapid testing is part of a broader movement in HIV prevention, and has been available internationally for a number of years.

One of the major benefits is that rapid testing removes barriers to testing associated with conventional laboratory-based tests, as results are provided in 20 minutes.

It also encourages more frequent testing, which enables early detection and early treatment.

In Victoria there are approximately 6200 people living with HIV, with around 265 new cases identified each year. Some 92 per cent of cases are males, and the overall median age is just over 46 years.

In the past five years there have been significant advances in scientific understanding of HIV, in both treatment and prevention.

These provide new opportunities to increase the scope and effectiveness of the HIV prevention response, and significantly reduce the impact of HIV in Victoria.

Members of the GLBTI community can rest assured that our Government will continue to be at the forefront in this area.

We see keys to this health response as being:

  • A substantial increase in voluntary testing for people at risk of HIV.

  • A reduction in the proportion of people with an undiagnosed HIV infection, and initiatives to achieve earlier diagnosis.

  • Maintaining or increasing safe practices that lower the risk of HIV infection.

  • Reducing the stigma and discrimination attached to HIV.

  • A focus on education and information.

Stigma remains one of the most important barriers to living full lives and to effective public health action. This is why we fund agencies like Living Positive Victoria to run the Positive Speakers Bureau which addresses discrimination through story telling in places such as schools and youth centres.

Stigma remains one of the most important barriers to living full lives and to effective public health action. This is why we fund agencies like Living Positive Victoria to run the Positive Speakers Bureau which addresses discrimination through story telling in places such as schools and youth centres.

 

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