This World AIDS Day 1 December 2015, e-GPS were excited to roll out another fantastic #RedRibbonsHIV campaign thanks to a generous grant from the South Eastern Sydney Local Health District (SESLHD).
We had the privilege to meet some extraordinary individuals whose collective voice of experience and loss speaks up for those, mostly young men, who succumbed to AIDS-related illnesses in the 1980 and 90’s. Adding to this voice is an energy and dedication beonging to a new generation of HIV activisits. Their message of hope and education is remarkable, particularly since many of the new gen weren’t even alive during the Australian AIDS epidemic when the Grim Reaper was all over our screens in the mid 1980’s.
The stalwart protectors of this tragic history can now work with bright young men and women whose credo is to Live Well with HIV. These health advocates are taking HIV – now a manageable chronic disease – through to it’s inevitable conclusion.
Whether you’re old or young, if you work in the HIV sector you know that the incredible efforts of peak bodies such as ACON, ASHM, AFAO and leading researchers from Monash University, Burnet and Kirby Institutes are going to bring an end to HIV. Eventually. In the meantime, the work must continue in education, research and public policy allowing equal access to medication and prevention strategies.
The goal of the latest Kirby Institute #EndingHIV research study – the EPIC study – is a virtual elimination of HIV transmission in Australia by 2020. With increasingly effective medications, HIV vaccine research nearing completion, greater education and HIV awareness, it is likely that the HIV/AIDS epidemic will one day be written into the history books as a tragic yet ultimately triumphant chapter in human infectious diseases.
World AIDS Day is a day to remember those who lost their lives to AIDS. It’s also a day to celebrate those who have survived and to recognise the good fortune of the younger generation of Australians who were born in an era where access to new testing technology increases screening rates and early diagnosis, while early treatment and treatment as prevention helps to reduce transmission. The extraodinary mobilisation in Australia during the 80’s AIDS era has led to world-leading public policy, paving the way to #EndingHIV.
Here are some of the highlights of our #RedRibbonsHIV campaign
It’s a Wrap! We had a blast! How about you? What did your mob get up to on #WorldAIDSday2015 ?
Here’s a Blast from the Past….Check out the pics from the RedRibbons 2012 campaign
A new series of Indigenous health resources was launched today by the ACON Aboriginal Project as part of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HIV Awareness Week. The Aboriginal Project encompasses health promotion for, by and with Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander people of diverse sexuality and gender, especially those living with HIV, or at highest risk of being affected by HIV. The Project aims to build knowledge and skills-based resilience, health and wellbeing via a culturally appropriate model of holistic health that recognises emotional, spiritual, social and mental wellbeing. The team also work with different groups to tackle racism in the community.
To celebrate the launch, special guests, elders and families were invited to a lunch and performance by Gumaroy Newman and brother Mike. Here they are in full flight performing a series of traditional dances for the crowd. Deadly!
Congratulations to Stephen Morgan, Mish and the ACON Aboriginal Project team for a great event on the eve of World AIDS Day 2015.
Find out more about ACON’s work with Aboriginal people
It’s the Return of the Red Ribbon!
Excited to announce we’re the lucky recipients of a NSW Health + South Eastern Sydney Local Health District grant to raise HIV awareness for World AIDS Day 2015 #WAD2015.
The Red Ribbon took on celebrity status in Sydney back in 2012 as we toured festivals and events raising HIV awareness. Everyone from ministers to mayors, neurologists to nurses, actors, artists and activists proudly wore the Ribbon.
Check out our gorgeous gallery!
We were privileged to meet these incredible people in 2012 and we can’t wait to get started this year! We’ll be focusing on the South Eastern Sydney district this year: Kogarah, Rockdale, St.George, Hurstville and Sutherland.
To get involved go to our Facebook page to see where we’ll be heading between 28 November 28 and 2 December. Come and get wrapped in the Ribbon!
Follow us on Twitter @RedRibbonsHIV
and check out our Pinterest posts for your Red Ribbon photos.
Looking forward to seeing you all soon for #WAD2015
How can I help raise HIV Awareness this World AIDS Day?
Friend Red Ribbons on Facebook
Follow the Red Ribbon on Twitter @RedRibbonsHIV
Having just returned from a blissful phone-less, wifi-less holiday on a tiny island way out on the Great Barrier Reef, we landed back in the real world with a bump – in more ways than one. Coming into range, we heard the familiar ‘ting… ting’ of a week’s worth of messages. Unfortunately the first few weren’t from friends welcoming us home, they were from our bank, alerting us to unauthorised withdrawals of $1000 each from several locations around Sydney.
While we’d been snorkelling, sunbathing and enjoying some well-earned downtime, one of our business accounts had been skimmed of over $5000.
After a few phone calls to the bank, the fraud squad contacted us. So, now the process has begun and we wait to find out how to retrieve the funds and whether the skimmers will be caught.
Trying to narrow down potential vulnerablilities to fraud is a good opportunity for reflection; was it the cash withdrawal at our local ATM? Was it the Pay Pass coffee at the airport where we didn’t have time to enter a PIN? Was it the cab driver who picked us up from home and while driving to the airport asked us how long we’d be away?Or was it when we’d stuck the wallet in our back pocket for easy access while juggling our luggage?
We may never know… but, to arm ourselves for next time we’ve done some research on the latest skimming techniques and how to avoid them. It’s easy to find out more about the ins-&-outs of skimming by typing in a few keywords.
In the interests of time however, we felt it best to head straight for the Take-Home Message:
You Can Foil the Skimmers
That’s right, you have the technology. Apparently, foil placed between your ATM cards can block skimmers from reading your card details (card number and expiry date) and it’s cheap as chips. All you need is:
- Aluminum Foil
Draw an outline of your ATM card onto the cardboard and cut out 2 or 3 pieces to that size.
Cut the foil at least twice as long and slightly wider than the cardboard templates.
Glue the cardboard template face down onto the foil and glue the side facing up. Then fold a small edge over and flip the template onto the foil so the cardboard is tightly wrapped.
Trim or fold the edges and smooth out any bumps. Now you have foil inserts to place between your credit cards.
At the risk of sounding completely paranoid – this is NOT a foolproof method. Those nasty little fraudsters are always devising new and sneakier methods to get hold of your card details and rip you off.
And remember, make sure you check your bank statements regularly, look out for any discrepancies even if they are transactions of $1 or $2, avoid using PayPass if you can – use your PIN instead, avoid carrying your wallet in your back pocket, and always, ALWAYS cover your hand when you enter your PIN at an ATM.
Oh, and for any of you out there who thought you might be able to read my name and card number backwards…. this one’s for you!
OK, so as promised in our previous blog from the #WorldSTICongress2015, we had our in-house gamers review the new STI game developed by WA Health Infection Protection.
Introducing Gamer 1: At 14 years old, this gamer has had 12 years gaming experience. Starting out at 2 playing Freddie Fish, he moved into Star Wars Lego games at 6, loved Mario Kart, built hundreds of architecturally designed cities in Minecraft (still a gold favourite) peppering these games with bouts of Team Fortress 2 and FIFA, until he discovered Assassins Creed and shoot-em-up games like Call of Duty.
The game has a really good concept. I like how they’ve integrated Minecraft a popular and well known video game into something that educates children about STIs and health. It’s pretty funny at first, because everyone is having sex and that’s a bit weird. I’ve never seen Minecraft people having sex before. This made me laugh but it could make some people feel uncomfortable. After a while you get used to it and then you realise that it’s actually quite serious that the more sex they have the more diseases they can get.
You feel you’re responsible for these people having sex and spreading diseases as quickly as they do. So you have to stop the spread of disease by giving them safe sex packs and treating them.
Sending them to the clinic to get tested is really good because you learn about the symptoms and the treatments that are available.
The only thing is that you can’t really tell if the person has symptoms – but they should still go to the clinic to get tested just in case they just caught something from the last person they had sex with.
The way the game could be improved would be to give the characters more personality. Perhaps a picture of them (avatar) and a description eg; Brown hair, blue eyes, likes girls, likes boys, likes both, only has sex with one person, has lots of sex, has symptoms, has no symptoms. Make it more personal. You have to take care of them so you might as well know who they are.
Introducing Gamer 2: At 12, this gamer likes to play SIMS, Minecraft, Super Mario Bros, Nintendogs, Wii Sports, Kitty Powers Match Maker. She is an app queen with an iPhone and an attitude.
It’s weird for a 12 year old to see Minecraft characters doing that with each other. We still haven’t had “The Talk” at school but my Mum has told me about all that stuff. I know it’s normal, but it’s still weird. I like the way it looks like Minecraft. The graphics were pretty good. I played for a while and treated some people at the Clinic but I got bored after a while. I didn’t really want to learn about sex and diseases so I stopped playing. I don’t think I’d play again unless the characters were more interesting. Maybe if they had pets or did other stuff.
Play Infection Protection by going to www.getthefacts.health.wa.gov.au
Download Infection Protection from www.getthefacts.health.wa.gov.au
Turning the corner, I braced myself for another unfathomably academic abstract with a title that reads something like Engineering Human Rhinovirus Serotype A-1 as an HIV Vaccine Vector. My poor overloaded brain just wasn’t able to cope with another poster of stats, graphs and nanotype. So imagine the relief when I turned the corner to find the complete opposite. Here, at the World STI Congress 2015, was a research group who had finally got their game on.
Infection Protection, an initiative from the WA Health Department, are using online gaming to get their Sexual Health messages out to the young (and the young at heart). You can check out Infection Protection by downloading it from www.getthefacts.health.wa.gov.au
Interactive Games Missing their Mark
Interactive games are playing an increasingly important role in education around health and social issues. Check out this list compiled by MedlinePlus to see how much of an influence health games are playing. While the intentions are good, the majority of health games miss their mark. Kids are so much more tech savvy than we realise and in the time it takes to develop and build a game, it’s easy to lose them if the game is lame. Yes, the intentions are good – but are they really reaching their target audience?
Cashing in on the Minecraft Model
Infection Protection appears to have hit their target by channelling the one game that has completely captured kid’s imaginations, Minecraft. Millions of young people from 2-22 are playing Minecraft – the global gaming phenomena that uses blockhead characters to build cities, worlds and galaxies. You can play online with other Minecrafters from across the globe, or offline if you have the demo game.
Infection Protection is a simple game but, from our perspective, the branding is spot on. And, just to be sure, we’re going to ask our 12-14 year old audience to review the game.
Stay tuned for an honest appraisal next week!
PS: We tried to download from the App Store but had a few issues, so we went to Get The Facts and found a whole bunch of other really great sexual health messages for young people.
Download Infection Protection from www.getthefacts.health.wa.gov.au
Download from www.getthefacts.health.wa.gov.au
Considering the current global political climate, it’s no surprise that refugees and asylum seekers face barriers to accessing health care. Language difficulties, financial need and unemployment, cultural differences, legal barriers and a health workforce with generally low awareness of issues specific to refugees are just some of the barriers faced by humanitarian entrants to any country.
Importantly, current Australian government migration and settlement policy also impacts on access to health and health status. An adequate understanding of these is a prerequisite for health providers and health service managers if they are to tailor health care and services appropriately.1
A Once-only Assessment is Available
Refugee Health Assessments are covered under the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) and are a one-off comprehensive assessment that must be undertaken within 12 months of refugee or asylum seeker arrival.2
The health assessment must include the assessment of the patient’s:
- social functioning; and
- whether preventive health care and education should be offered to the patient to improve their health.
Psychological history should take into account possible long term effects of torture and other forms of trauma.
Clinical investigations will vary with country of origin, age, gender and any previous tests.
Consider the following based on clinical need:
- FBC, iron studies
- malaria Ag+/- film
- Schistosomiasis and Strongyloides serology
- Hepatitis B & C
- serum vitamin D
- faecal examination for parasites
- STI screen
- further TB (ie latent infection) and HIV assessment
- catch-up immunisation
- relevant preventative health checksThe medical practitioner should keep a record of the health assessment and offer to provide the patient with a written report about the health assessment. Patient consent to the health assessment should be documented in the patient’s record.
Refer to the Department of Health Fact Sheet on Refugee Health Assessments for more information
- Murray SB and Skull SA. Australian Health Review, 2005;29 (1):25-29
- Department of Health Australia: Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) health assessments for refugees and other humanitarian entrants
The Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) has welcomed news of the early results of a major international study that found that early treatment halved the risk of people with HIV developing a range of serious illnesses.
The Strategic Timing of Antiretroviral Treatment (START) study looked at the risks and benefits of early versus delayed antiretroviral treatment. The study has been wound up ahead of time due to the conclusive findings. These results offer further support to Australia’s efforts to increase treatment uptake among all people with HIV. Evidence has existed for several years that HIV treatments dramatically reduce the infectiousness of people with HIV. The START study now indicates there is a clear benefit to individual health, even among people with high CD4 counts.
Clear Support for Initiating Early Treatment
AFAO Executive Director Rob Lake said it was great news, offering strong evidence to support what many health professionals have believed for some time. “We’ve thought for some time early treatment – rather than waiting – was beneficial,” Rob Lake said. “For health professionals, these results offer clear support for initiating treatment as soon as patients are ready. For people with HIV, who may be delaying treatment until their CD4 count starts to fall or who may be apprehensive for other reasons, these results should offer confidence that starting now is the best decision for long-term health,” said Rob Lake.
Australia is considered to have fairly high rate of antiretroviral treatment uptake among people living with HIV, thanks to the strong community support and education and the PBS scheme which subsidises the costs of medications. “In a country like Australia with a strong health system and PBS, the study results are great news because people with HIV can take advantage of the medicines straight away.”
AFAO said the study’s results would strengthen the fight for treatment in countries where access is poor. Globally only about 40% of people with HIV are able to access HIV treatments.
Join our coverage of the World STI Congress together with the Australian HIV & AIDS Conference from 13 – 18 September 2015
Keep Calm & Recognise Distress (Part 2)
(Read Part 1: Keep Calm & Carry On)
How do you recognise distress? It might sound ridiculous. Of course doctors can recognise distress. After all, doctors are trained to recognise symptoms, diagnose and treat, right? The number of Australians seeking help from GPs for mental health issues is higher than ever with over 16 million GP appointments for mental health-related issues during the 2013-14 financial year. That accounts for 12.3% of all GP encounters. Clearly doctors are trusted when it comes to managing other people’s distress4
But being adept at recognising symptoms of distress in others doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy to recognise them in yourself. In clinical situations, objectivity allows medical professionals to observe distressed behaviour in their patients and elicit information to develop health care plans, refer for counselling and manage ongoing treatment. It is much harder to observe this behaviour in yourself, especially when you are the professional on whom so many of your patients depend. For doctors and medical students, barriers to seeking professional help for mental health issues include;1
- Fear of a lack of confidentiality or privacy within their profession
- Embarrassment or shame
- Concern about the impact on registration and right to practice
- Preference to rely on self rather than seek help
- Lack of time
- Concerns about career development or progress
Consider this case, from an article in the Medical Journal of Australia, presenting a typical example of the barriers many doctors experience in the face of untenable stress.
‘Over the last 6 months you’ve noticed that you have become increasingly anxious. You find yourself constantly worrying about everyday events that never used to bother you. You are having difficulty sleeping and often wake up during the night. Having a few drinks seems to help you relax. Although your general health is quite good you are experiencing a lot of muscle tension and headaches. You’re also confident in managing this condition with your patients and feel that you could manage it for yourself. You know a competent doctor you could see whom you’re comfortable would be understanding of you, but you are unsure whether you can trust them to maintain your confidentiality. Your practice is so busy it would be hard to find the time.’2
Does this sound familiar? Here, workload, time constraints and confidentiality are concerns and the tendency might be to avoid broaching the subject with another doctor and hope the problem just goes away.
As a doctor, you know that avoidance is not a workable option. Your mental health is just as important as everyone else’s and you have the right to access help without your reputation being at stake. You need to care for yourself before you can adequately care for others. And here’s some good news in the midst of all this distress. According to the 2013 beyondblue survey, doctors appear to have a greater degree of resilience to the negative impacts of poor mental health.1 But getting a baseline on your stress levels is important so you can assess how well you are managing at work and at home.
Assess your stress
Try taking this quick Professional Quality of Life survey to see how you’re tracking with stress at work. The PQoL assesses the satisfaction you derive from your work, your tendency to burnout and your response to extreme or stressful events. It’s an interesting exercise even if you’re feeling you have little or no stress at work. You might be surprised with the results.
Of course, getting a baseline is just the first step. Professional help and advice are within easy reach, much easier now that work-related stress levels have been identified as an issue across most professions and workplaces in Australia.3 The Australasian Doctor’s Health Network is a great place to start. You can get immediate help, via state-based call centres, with issues around work stress, burnout and anxiety as well as bullying and harassment. We recommend you seek help from a medical professional if you are feeling burnt out, distressed, overwhelmed, anxious or depressed. It’s OK. You can keep calm and carry on, you might just need some help.
- National Mental Health Survey of Doctors and Medical Students October 2013 https://www.beyondblue.org.au/docs/default-source/research-project-files/bl1132-report—nmhdmss-full-report_web
- Davidson SK, Schattner PL. Doctors’ health-seeking behaviour: a questionnaire survey. Med J Aust 2003;179(6):302-5. https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2003/179/6/doctors-health-seeking-behaviour-questionnaire-survey
- Commomwealth of Australia. Working Well: An organisational approach to psychological injury. http://www.comcare.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/41369/PUB_47_Working_well.pdf
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2014. Mental Health Services: in brief 2014.