HIV prevention works best when we all work together: conference
The Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) Gay Men's HIV Health Promotion Conference 2012 this month passed a number of resolutions at the closing session of the conference.
Titled Rapid Change & Growing Promise the conference, which ran from May 29-30 was a chance for HIV educators, policy makers, and researchers to network, highlight best-practice, and discuss practical and strategic health promotion responses to emerging issues in the HIV epidemic in Australia.
The first resolution adopted at the closing session expresses the Conference's "alarm" at the Queensland government removal of funding from Healthy Communities.
"The decision was made without consultation and will seriously disrupt the provision of services to prevent HIV transmission in one of Australia’s most populous states," the resolution says.
"[...]To stop working programs, to sack employed staff and destroy community networks will set back HIV prevention efforts both in Queensland and across Australia."
The conference also noted that HIV prevention works best in a partnership between communities, government, medical providers: "The Conference calls on the Queensland Government to return to working in partnership with all sections of the HIV response, and to recognise that those affected by HIV are best placed to determine their health promotion needs."
The conference also resolved to encourage better access to antiretroviral medication (ARV), including raising the median CD4 level at which AV commences so those who choose to can begin treatment earlier.
"...The primary decision to use ARV is based on an individual’s health decisions, including the impact of reduced infectiousness on their mental health and wellbeing. Voluntary, informed, personal decisions are fundamental to the choice to commence and sustain ARV therapy over a lifetime," that resolution states.
Another area that concerned the conference was poor HIV testing rates and the unavailability of rapid testing, areas that need to be addressed "as a matter of urgency".
According to the latest figures, the majority of people diagnosed with HIV each year have no regular HIV testing routine. The Conference deemed that the convenience of current testing methods needed to be improved, appropriate rapid testing needs to be introduced and there need to be better programs to promote regular voluntary testing.
"This Conference notes with alarm that rapid testing technologies are approved for use in comparable developed countries and have proven useful in addressing HIV transmission rates, yet remain unapproved for use in Australia in 2012," the third resolution states.
"This Conference calls on all parts of the HIV partnership to proactively work towards making rapid HIV testing routinely available in Australia."
All three resolutions were passed unanimously on Wednesday, May 30.