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World AIDS Day: Australia’s response to the HIV epidemic

29 November, 2013

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Counselling by an ex-drug user to a new drug user in Cambodia about the dangers of drug use, and alternatives

Counselling by an ex-drug user to a new drug user in Cambodia about the dangers of drug use, and alternatives. Photo: Khana

December 1 is World AIDS Day—this year marked in Australia by the launch of the 20th International HIV/AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014), which will be held in Melbourne in July next year.

As part of the launch on December 1, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Julie Bishop, will attend a special event in Melbourne with high-profile dignitaries including UNAIDS Global Advocate for Zero Discrimination Aung San Suu Kyi and UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé.

With around 18,000 delegates expected at the conference in July, AIDS 2014 will be one of the largest health events on the planet. Hosting the event in Melbourne will ensure that there is greater focus on Asia and the Pacific.

World AIDS Day is an opportunity to raise awareness across the world about HIV/AIDS, and the successes and remaining challenges of efforts to end the global epidemic.

It gives the world a chance to reflect on the state of the epidemic, to take stock of the practices and policies that are most likely to work, and to build momentum among political leaders and the public.

The Australian Government sees economic development as critical to alleviating poverty, and has a strong focus on supporting sustainable economic development in the Asia-Pacific.

Through support for World AIDS Day and AIDS 2014, Australia is demonstrating a recognition that healthy economies begin with healthy communities.

For individuals, poor health often leads to being excluded from opportunities to improve living standards by participating in the economy. And typically, access to HIV prevention and treatment is lowest among poor and marginalised populations. Australia’s response to HIV/AIDS is designed to reach these populations.

Since the first cases of HIV were discovered 30 years ago, Australia has made a consistent effort to respond to the epidemic. Australia’s domestic HIV response is widely regarded as a success and national prevalence is lower than in most other comparable high-income countries. Australia has one of the lowest rates of new HIV diagnoses among developed countries and HIV transmission through shared injecting equipment and sex work is very low.

The Government of Australia also has a long history of supporting the HIV response through funding to partner countries, and regional and global responses. Over the past decade, this has amounted to almost $A1 billion.

Australia’s response to HIV/AIDS includes working in our region to improve support, prevention, treatment and care.

In the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua, where HIV prevalence is by far the highest in the country, Australia is supporting the government health system by strengthening district health facilities to provide better-quality HIV and related health services, including for tuberculosis and sexually transmitted infections, and—critically—by supporting these centres of excellence to mentor public health centres throughout the provinces to push quality services to areas much closer to where people live.

Australian aid also supports provincial efforts to provide comprehensive HIV information to the public and to those most at risk of infection. Between 2010 and 2012 there was a tenfold increase in the number of people accessing HIV-related therapy at the supported sites.

Australian aid supports non-government organisations working with people who inject drugs to come together with government community health centres to ensure that clean needles and syringes reach users where and when they need them.

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Last reviewed: 1 December, 2013