The theme of World AIDS Day 2016, ‘HIV is still here – and it’s on the move’, brought together members of the HIV sector including government, researchers, clinicians and people living with, and affected by HIV to celebrate the advances in medicine, acknowledge all people affected by the virus and those that have been lost to AIDS.
Last year in Victoria, 290 individuals were diagnosed with HIV including 258 men, 31 women and one transgender person. There are currently more than 7,000 people living with HIV (PLHIV) in Victoria and approximately 26,000 PLHIV across Australia.
“HIV has not gone away in Victoria, and nor has AIDS,” said Associate Professor Edwina Wright. “Last year 39 people were diagnosed with AIDS related illnesses.”
Recent data from the Kirby Institute and the Burnet Institute suggest that Victoria is within reach of attaining the Fast Track Cities 90-90-90 targets to have 90 percent of PLHIV knowing their HIV status, 90 percent of PLHIV who know their HIV-positive status on antiretroviral therapy (ART) and 90 percent of PLHIV on ART achieving viral suppression. It is estimated that about 12 percent of those living with HIV in Victoria still do not know their status.
“Continuing to challenge HIV stigma is essential if we are to engage in that last 12 percent of people into testing, treatment and ongoing peer support services because HIV is still here and it’s on the move,” said Richard Keene, President of Living Positive Victoria.
Health Minister Jill Hennessy announced PrEPX study would expand and provide an additional 150 places in rural and regional Victoria. The study aims to examine the impact of Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) on the rates of new HIV infections in Victoria.
“PrEP changes lives,” said Hennessy. “It is a very effective HIV-prevention tool that offers great hope and optimism about a future where HIV is virtually eliminated.”
Positive Speakers Heather and Gareth shared their personal narratives which resonated with the audience and encouraged everyone to continue the battle against stigma and finding a cure for HIV. You can watch Heather’s speech here and Gareth’s speech here .
Following the community launch, the community forum was held and moderated by Rowena Allan, Commissioner for Gender and Sexuality. Four members of the HIV sector including Bruce Parnell from the Burnet Institute, HeatherMugwagwa from Positive Women Victoria, Joel Murray from Living Positive Victoria and Jeremy Wiggins from the Victorian AIDS Council reflected on some of the issues facing the HIV community today.
This included leaving no person out of the national HIV strategy women which has often been women and those part of the transgender community, creating simple language campaigns rather than cutting edge campaigns to ensure information can be received by all and recognising that stigma is still a key barrier to those getting tested and getting on treatment.
Click here to hear the audio transcripts of the community launch at AMREP Theatre thanks to JOY 94.9.