All Posts tagged HIV

On the right track with early HIV treatment

On the right track with early HIV treatment

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







Becoming more Gay Friendly in your Practice

Becoming more Gay Friendly in your Practice

GPs and practice nurses seeking to become more ‘gay friendly’ in their practice now have the option to complete a short online learning module Becoming More Gay Friendly in your Practice. Developed by the STIs in Gay Men Action Group (STIGMA), the OLM guides GPs on the diverse health needs of gay and homosexually active men. In particular, sexual health screening, including sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV testing, as well as psycho-social issues commonly experienced by gay men and men who have sex with men (MSM).

Dr Chris Bourne, Head, NSW STI Programs Unit and Senior Staff Specialist, Sydney SexualHealth Centre, said gay or homosexually active men in Australia are disproportionately affected by STIs, including HIV, and most diagnoses in Australia are made by GPs. “It is important for everyone to feel comfortable when visiting a GP. For gay or homosexuall yactive men, GPs play an important role in helping them assess their sexual health risk and providing opportunities to test for STIs and HIV,” he said. “The OLM aims to help GPs deliver care which is inclusive of gay or homosexually active men; where they feel safe and free from discrimination and can be offered current professional health advice.”

Dr David Baker, a GP at East Sydney Doctors, says the OLM training highlights the diverse health needs of gay and homosexually active men, which encompass primary health care,current trends in sexual health, understanding of gay culture and its diversity. “As a GP, it’s important to become confident in identifying common health issues faced by gay men and men who have sex with men, particularly when it comes to their sexual health,” Dr Baker said. “The STIGMA OLM is an excellent resource for GPs who want to know more about being ‘gay friendly’ in their clinical practice and how to address and work with health issues specific to this population. The knowledge gained from the OLM enables GPs to have a more informed perspective and to to open up a discussion about STI risk, STI testing, drug and alcohol use and mental health.’’

Becoming More Gay Friendly in your Practice was developed by STIGMA, following its development of a ‘Gay Friendly GP List’ for NSW, to support access to the primary health care of gay men and MSM. The OLM is structured in three interactive case-based modules. The modules include: towards a better understanding of gay men and men who have sex with men (MSM), discussing sexual history and testing for STIs, and common health issues facing gay men and MSM. The OLM can be completed over one hour or 20 minutes for each module.

GPs and practice nurses can access the OLM by going to the Australasian Society for HIV Medicine (ASHM) Learning Management System registering or logging on, then clicking on the Catalogue tab.

GPs who complete the OLM in full can accrue two Cat.2 RACGP QI&CPD points.


HIV Shared Care for GPs

HIV Shared Care for GPs

The Australasian Society for HIV Medicine (ASHM) have developed a suite of resources to support GPs who provide care to HIV positive patients in their practice. Key to the HIV Shared Care for GPs model is the knowledge that improved treatment outcomes means that HIV is now considered a chronic condition. GPs, specialists, nurses, allied health and support services are involved in the management of people living with HIV and this management involves team-based interdisciplinary communication and planning.


Central to HIV Shared Care for GPs is the GP Management Plan (GPMP) for HIV - a tool that encourages comprehensive disease management using an annual cycle of care for HIV based on current guidelines including the RACGP Red Book and STIGMA Guidelines for STI testing.

HIV GPMP Audit and Shared Care Training

To evaluate the GPMP for HIV, an Audit and training package have been developed by ASHM with endorsement by the RACGP.

GPs with a caseload of five or more HIV positive patients have the opportunity to earn 40 RACGP QI&CPD Audit Points and 6 ASHM HIV Points when they participate in the Audit.

The Audit consists of three parts:

Part 1: A retrospective audit of five HIV positive patients for whom they have provided care in their practice. Each audit consists of 24 questions about the HIV management provided for that patient, and the level of communication between GP and HIV specialist or specialist service.

Part 2: Shared care training. The training consists of nine short videos from GPs, and specialist HIV services outlining how to develop a comprehensive GPMP for HIV and including the key issues in monitoring, management and best practice shared care between GPs and specialists.

Part 3: 6 months following the training component, the GP will be asked to complete a second retrospective audit of five HIV positive patients for whom they have provided care since the training.

The results will compare pre- and post- GPMP Shared Care training. GPs will receive a report that highlights their management of patients living with HIV, where their communication and monitoring needs improvement and encouraging GPs to reflect on their practice.

Participating in the Audit

The HIV GPMP Audit and Shared Care Training is available on the ASHM Learning Management System (LMS). Participants need to register for a username and password to access the LMS. Once registered GPs, and other health professionals, have access to an extensive library of online modules, training and webinars which accrue points towards their continuing professional development (CPD).

For more information, visit the ASHM Website
or contact ASHM via email hivsharedcare [at]



Who else should you test for HIV?

Who else should you test for HIV?

Who else should you test for HIV?

Groups that you know to test for HIV include; gay and other men who have sex with men, sex workers and people who inject drugs. There are however other groups that you should consider testing. In NSW during 2014, 14% of all HIV notifications were from heterosexual people1 and it is estimated there are currently 620 heterosexual people infected with HIV who are undiagnosed2. Heterosexual people who are:

  • sexual or injecting partners of people who live with HIV;
  • frequent or long term travellers, particularly those who have recently travelled to Africa or Asia;
  • people who inject drugs;
  • those who are chronically unwell, where no explanation can be found;
  • people whose sexual partners are from high prevalence countries or regions e.g. Africa or  Asia and;
  • heterosexual men having sex with men,

should also be tested for HIV, as they are at increased risk for infection.

Abby, 26, had trouble even getting a test from her doctor, with the doctor dismissing her concerns. ‘I had a new partner and just had a feeling…..When I asked  my doctor for a test she just said Abby you are young straight woman, living in Australia…why would you need a test?  She did test me and I was HIV positive. Of course it was a shock but finding out early was the best thing for my health.’

Associate Professor Catherine O’Connor, Director of the Sexual Health Service at Sydney Local Health District advises that GPs should be testing for HIV. ‘As GPs are the front line health services most accessed by the general community, it is important that GPs are aware of who is at risk of HIV infection. Sexual Health Services can provide support to GPs who are making HIV diagnoses,’

Pozhet is the Heterosexual HIV Service for NSW. We provide programs and services to improve the wellbeing of the diverse heterosexual community of people living with HIV, their partners, family and friends. For more information please visit the website: or call the Heterosexual HIV Information Line on 1800 812 404.


Follow Pozhet on Twitter

Like Pozhet on Facebook

Logo for PozHet Heterosexual HIV Service in dark blue showing 2 white and 2 lighter blue paper doll cutouts with arms raised

Information for GPs:

Making a New HIV Diagnosis  - Australsian Society of HIV Medicine (ASHM)

National HIV Testing Policy





  1. NSW Ministry of Health (2014), NSW HIV Strategy 2012- 2015: A new era, 2nd Annual report on progress, snapshot, available from:,  accessed 26 March 2015.
  2. Jansson J., Kerr C. C., Wilson D. P., (2014), Predicting the population impact of increasing HIV testing and treatment in Australia.

STIGMA STI Testing Guidelines

STIGMA STI Testing Guidelines


Continued high rates of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) among gay and other men

who have sex with men (MSM) in NSW, including those who are HIV positive, have prompted

a revision of the STI and HIV testing guidelines for NSW.


The guidelines, 2014 Sexually Transmitted Infection and HIV Testing Guidelines for

Asymptomatic Men who have Sex with Men, released this month by the Sexually

Transmissible Infections in Gay Men Action Group (STIGMA) continue to recommend annual

testing for gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis and HIV and more frequent testing for high risk



Last published in 2010, the revised guidelines now also recommend throat testing for

chlamydia, and the use of electronic reminders for gay men and their clinicians to increase

the regularity of testing, particularly for gay men in inner-Sydney and other Australian

metropolitan centres.


Developed to assist GPs and primary health practitioners with comprehensive and regular

testing of gay men, the revised guidelines also recommend conducting a behavioural risk

assessment and promoting consistent condom use amongst gay men.


Karen Price, Chair of STIGMA and Director HIV and Sexual Health, ACON, said HIV and STI

testing remained an essential component of improving health, wellbeing and efforts to end

HIV transmission amongst gay men.

“We must acknowledge the great commitment many gay men have demonstrated in looking

after their sexual health, but there is still more to do.

“The continuing high rates of STIs in the inner-Sydney area remain concerning, especially

the significant increases in gonorrhoea observed over the last five years,” Ms Price said


A large proportion of STIs are being detected in gay men without any symptoms, which

reinforces the need for regular testing. Infectious syphilis and STIs in the throat and rectum

are particularly likely to be asymptomatic.


Associate Professor David Templeton, Senior Specialist, RPA Sexual Health Service said

regular STI testing and consistent condom use are key to reducing STIs among gay men.

”Swab and urine tests can be self-collected and we have effective, often single dose,

treatments for many STIs,” A/Prof Templeton said.


The revised guidelines align with the recent statewide ‘Ending HIV’ campaign, developed by

ACON and adopted by the NSW Ministry of Health, one of the key aims of which is to

increase HIV testing among gay men.


Conjoint Associate Professor Chris Bourne, Senior Specialist, Sydney Sexual Health Centre,

said it was timely to have the updated guidelines released to support the campaign, and that

the revised guidelines will go a long way in helping to combat increased rates of STIs and

HIV amongst gay men.

“Gay men are recommended to get tested for other STIs at the same time as they are being

tested for HIV, because many throat and rectal STIs, for example, do not have symptoms,”

A/Prof Bourne said.


The revised guidelines are endorsed by the Australasian Society for HIV Medicine,

Australasian Sexual Health Alliance, Australasian Chapter of Sexual Health Medicine of the

Royal Australasian College Of Physicians and are approved as an accepted clinical resource

by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, and can be downloaded at:




Serious Games for Digital Natives

Serious Games for Digital Natives



The past decade has seen a steady rise in sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in Australia. In 2010, young people aged 15-24 accounted for 42% of new HIV infections in people aged 15 and older.2

The adolescent population presents a unique set of challenges when it comes to sexual health education and behaviour change. Adolescence is a time for exploring sexuality, experimenting with risk-taking behaviour and finding new ways to connect that sets them apart from the adult world.


How do we reach young people to prevent STIs?

Moving health messaging into the digital gaming space, says Lynn Fiellin and colleagues at Yale University who presented their results at the Young People Epidemiology and Prevention Strategies oral abstract session at AIDS 2014 today.

Digital health technologies are growing at an unprecedented rate, particularly in the smart phone and tablet space. Mobile phone networks are now reaching up to 85% of the global population and the World Health Organisation estimates close to 5 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide.2

A recent infographic reported the State of the Mobile 2013:

•      91% of all people on earth have a mobile phone

•      56% of people own a smart phone

•      80% of time on mobile devices is spent inside games or apps

•      Majority of teens play video games as long as they have access to them.3

And the largest audience of apps and video games?  Adolescents - the digital natives or our techno world.


Serious Gaming delivers serious health messages

‘Serious Gaming’ is an emerging platform for imparting health messages and delivering health education. Serious gaming holds the promise of delivering STI prevention messages to teenagers through game-based learning.

Anyone who has talked to a teenager lately knows that gaming experiences can be engaging, immersive and educational. Many Australian schools now set homework where students are using video gaming platforms and apps to entice and encourage literacy and numeracy and to connect and collaborate with remote schools.

Applying health messages to video games has the potential to improve health literacy around STIs and may go some way towards prevention.

Studies into serious gaming cite neuroplasticity improvements, faster processing, increased cognitive flexibility and a deeper creative learning experience as just some of the results reported by young people who took part in serious gaming compare to those who played non-educational games.4

Today, Fiellin and colleagues showed that when teens were randomly assigned to 10 hours of gaming sessions that included: Sexual health and HIV knowledge, self efficacy, risk perception scenarios, short vs. long term priorities and an epilogue illustrating the consequences of their choices, their HIV risk knowledge had improved at 6 weeks, with knowledge levels maintained at 3 and 6 months.

Participants enjoyed the gaming experience, found it challenging, and reported that they felt responsible for the decisions made during game.

During question time, criticism of the study was aimed at the game’s apparent representation of heteronormative and gender-based stereotypes. Ms Fiellin agreed that the video game was limited in its choice of characters and diverse sexual orientation but that the research group now have proof of concept to develop the game further including the potential for a multiplayer platform.


Read our blog Chlamydia in Teens: What’s working…What isn’t? 



  1.  Australian Bureau of Statistics ABS June 2012
  2. UNAIDS Fact sheet Adolescents, young people and HIV
  3. World Health Organisation (WHO) Website. Tobacco Free Initiative.
  4. of the Mobile
  5. Glass BD et al (2013) Real-Time Strategy Game Training PLoS ONE 8(8): e70350. doi:10.1371/



Sign the Melbourne Declaration

Sign the Melbourne Declaration

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 


a [TEST] Newtown for Rapid HIV Testing

a [TEST] Newtown for Rapid HIV Testing


a[TEST] Newtown – Right time, right place, right person!

Red Ribbon HIV AIDS awareness symbolWhen gay guys were asked about why they don’t routinely get tested for HIV some of the most common answers were;

  • “I don’t have time to do it.”
  • “It’s too hard to get to.”
  • Didn’t want to “discuss their private details with some judgemental doctor”1.


Well, we listened and found a solution!

Sydney Local Health District/RPA Sexual Health, in collaboration with ACON and the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) are providing that solution.

Now a[TEST] Newtown is offering a community based HIV and STI testing service which will be open after hours.

This service - like its big brother a[TEST] Elizabeth St, Surry Hills - offers a peer based testing service. This peer based service is run by members of the gay community (gay guys), experienced sexual health and HIV nurses and other medical professionals who provide a supportive, friendly, environment for HIV testing.


At the a[TEST] service you can access:

  • HIV rapid testing
  • STI self-collected screening
  • Total confidentiality – no Medicare card required
  • Service completed in 30 minutes

Peers and nurse



Think before you Ink!

Think before you Ink!

Are you into ink?

Maybe you’re into all kinds of bodyart? Piercings, plugs, noserings, implants?


Imogen dark sunnies, red lipstick, black top, mona lisa smile, red scarf, tattoo red rose

OK, so join about a gazillion other Australians in the race to become indelibly marked with their own picture book. Every second person, including the lovely Imogen (above) is tattooed these days. And we’re not talking about one or two love-hearts, a lone anchor or a sailor’s bluebird.

a bluebird tattoo, bluebird has a red breast and is flying downwards, wings spread and tail splayed


Old school tattoos that profess love, hate or loyalty are now part of a much bigger picture. Literally.  Incredible works of bodyart cover entire anatomies - comprising sleeves, fully inked legs and arms, faces, foreheads, necks, ankles, feet.


Maori man proudly displays his tribal tattoo

An enormously popular industry has been launched on the back of tattoos. Many local newsagents now carry more Tattoo magazines than HomeGlam/Lifestyle publications. Tattoo festivals are held across the globe, and social media is well and truly #inked with #tattoo hashtags. The past 24 hours featured over 2000 tweets on the subject.

Magazine cover Tattoo Art features a naked woman's back with a Phoenix type bird tattoo


Whether you’re into ink or not, tattoos are here to stay…for good.

But what lies behind the sexed up body art photography, the ‘glamorous’ tattooed celebrities, and the testosterone-driven allegiance to a particular gang or tribe?

Funnily enough, pictures of elderly citizens with sagging skin distorting their youthful self-expressionism don’t often make it into the public domain. Glossy magazines don’t tend to portray inflammation, infections pustules or ink poisoning…


Media: Red, White and True

Media: Red, White and True

Media: 20 November, 2012 

Well, Red Ribbons is more than a little excited today….

We’ve made HIV awareness front page news in the Inner West Courier!

Full story available on The Inner West Courier digital edition: or Go Back to Promotions/Red Ribbons

On November 16, 2012 we were fortunate enough to secure a meeting with Federal Health Minister, Tanya Plibersek, to discuss the impact of HIV, not only in Sydney’s Inner West, but across the country. This meeting coincided with the launch of  the Implementation of the United Nations Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS in Australia’s Domestic HIV Response: Turning Political Will into Action.

The paper considers how the UN Political Declaration intersects with Australia’s Sixth National HIV Strategy 2010-2013 (The National HIV Strategy) and how it may be leveraged to re-engage the Australian HIV response.  Launched at the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) conference in Sydney on November 16, the document outlines ten key goals:

1. Reinvigorate the HIV partnership approach by opening lines of communication and engaging new stakeholders

2. Strengthen the enabling environment by addressing legal and policy barriers - entrenching a human rights-based approach and removing barriers to effective health promotion and HIV prevention while safe-guarding the rights of people living with and affected by HIV

3. Maintain a focus on evidence-based and proven HIV prevention approaches among high priority populations - particularly peer-led and harm-reduction based work by and for gay men, sex workers and people who inject drugs to prevent increases in new infections.

4.  Develop an Australian combination prevention approach - using combined medical, behavioural and structural interventions to reach specific populations

5. Increase voluntary testing accessibility - improving access to HIV testing to minimise delays between seroconversion and diagnosis, improve health outcomes and reduce health impacts of late diagnosis

6. Increase voluntary treatment uptake - addressing information needs of people with HIV, educating health professionals and addressing issues of cost and dispensing so the HIV treatments are more accessible

7. Address stigma and discrimination - reducing the stigma of HIV and discrimination experienced by people living with HIV

8. Implement targeted and broad-based HIV awareness campaigns - particularly in key population groups and emerging populations

9. Strengthen the focus on the intersection and HIV and sexual health - re-engaging key groups including gay men, men who have sex with men and sex workers

10. Improve monitoring and surveillance

This work will involve joint initiatives of community organisations and agencies committed to a strong, unified response to HIV in Australia including:

Australian Federation of AIDS Oganisations (AFAO)

Anwernekenhe Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HIV/AIDS Alliance (ANA)

Australian Illicit and Injecting Drug Users League (AIVL)

National Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS

Scarlet Alliance Australian Sex Workers Association

But back to our Red Ribbon campaign…..We know that today’s news is tomorrow’s fish n chip paper!

To keep the HIV/AIDS awareness message front and centre, please follow us on Twitter


and have a look at our Festival photos on Facebook  and Pinterest

Tell your friends to Be Safe and watch out for our famous Red Ribbon, coming to a suburb near you!



PS: Did we tell you we were on the front page of the Inner West Courier today….?

Full story available on The Inner West Courier digital edition: