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.
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The Australasian Society for HIV Medicine (ASHM) recently released a new resource for Aged Care Workers about HIV and ageing.
A survey found that 68 per cent of respondents, representing a cross-section of the aged care sector, had never had any training on HIV.
The 12-page booklet offers practical, plain English information and advice so that aged care workers can arm themselves with the knowledge they need to deliver quality care to people living with HIV.
The booklet, which was created in collaboration with the aged care workforce and funded by the Department of Health, contains information about:
- The Simple Facts about HIV
- Who has HIV?
- Treatments for HIV
- Infection prevention and control in the workplace
- How HIV affects the ageing process
- Stigma and discrimination
- Residents’ Legal Rights and Responsibilities
Go to www.ashm.org.au to download the pdf
ACON and the Commonwealth Government of the day (2012) released a Strategy on the Ageing and Aged Care for the LGBTI population. Read it here (Link will open in a new window)
In 2011, Australia signed the United Nations 2011 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS that sets ‘bold new targets’ for HIV/AIDS to 2015. Signatory countries agreed on the following ‘strong, time-bound’ targets by 2015:
▪ Advance efforts towards reducing sexual transmission of HIV by 50%
▪ Reducing HIV infection among people who inject drugs by 50%
▪ Push towards eliminating new HIV infections among children
▪ Increase the number of people on life-saving treatments to 15 million globally
▪ Reduce tuberculosis relation deaths in people living with HIV by half.
The UN Declaration highlights action areas for improving universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. Public access to sexual and reproductive health services, particularly for women and children, are a cornerstone of ‘working towards a world without AIDS’.
HIV rates have increased in Australia
It’s a given that Australia is better placed than many countries to meet these targets. And there is no better time to take action. Australia’s HIV rates increased by 8% in 2011 and campaigners are saying that Australia have ‘dropped the ball’ on HIV/AIDS research and funding in recent times.
In 2013, 1,236 people were diagnosed with HIV, similar to levels in 2012.
Despite some progress being made over the last 18 months, some of the barriers in tackling rising infection rates remain. These include a lack of rapid HIV tests licensed for use in Australia, prohibitive treatment costs and unhelpful restrictions on people with HIV and their medical teams deciding when to start treatment.
The Melbourne Declaration
To strengthen the United Nations goals and reduce HIV infection rates in Australia, the Melbourne Declaration was launched in October 2012 at the opening of the ASHM Australasian HIV/AIDS Conference 2012.
Action areas in the Melbourne Declaration include:
▪ Making rapid testing widely available in clinical and community settings
▪ Enhancing access to and uptake of antiretroviral treatment for HIV
▪ Making HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis available to people who at high risk of HIV infection
▪ Fast tracking treatment licensure and funding
▪ Mobilising and informing people with HIV, and in populations at high risk of HIV, about advances in treatment and prevention
▪ Support ongoing, high quality HIV research.
With the International AIDS Conference commencing this weekend in Melbourne, the Melbourne Declaration has renewed their calls for action, leadership and commitment to get Australia back on track, and to help meet UN targets by 2015.
Show your Support. Sign the Melbourne Declaration today!
You can follow the proceedings of the International AIDS Conference 2014 from the 20-25th July 2014 on Twitter using the hashtag #AIDS2014
Progress! - HIV Rapid Testing
Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) have now approved one testing device that enables rapid testing by an appropriately trained health worker in a clinic situation. No rapid testing devices have been approved for home use in Australia.
A list of rapid testing services is available on the AFAO (Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations) website.
You can also read our blog post about the launch of the Newtown Rapid Testing clinic and our work with the NSW Health Red Ribbons HIV Awareness campaign
Watch out for tweets from the #AIDS2014 Conference
Press Statement: Bold new AIDS targets set by world leaders for 2015
Melbourne Declaration Update
HIV in Australia Update 2013