STIs in remote Australia

ABC Health Report, Monday 18 March 2019 5:45 PM

Leading Aboriginal researcher Associate Professor James Ward* is calling for action in remote Australia to deal with a preventable epidemic of sexually transmissible infections — including syphilis — in a population that’s no more sexually active than non-Indigenous people of the same age.  

He joined Dr Norman Swan’s Health Report on ABC RN.

Later this month James will present to the National Rural Health Conference about addressing sexually transmitted infections in remote Australia.

*James Ward is Associate Professor, Flinders University; & Head of Infectious Diseases Research, Aboriginal Health, South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute. 

 

 

Understanding U=U for women living with HIV

ICASO, September 2018

Since its announcement, Undetectable equals Untransmittable (U=U) has
become a call to action to assert that when someone living with HIV has an
undetectable viral load they cannot transmit HIV. Additionally, the U=U message
is evolving to challenge notions of HIV infectivity, vulnerability and stigma.

The science behind the U=U message provides the evidence that we can reduce the anxiety related to the sexual transmission of the HIV virus with confidence.

To contribute to getting this message out, ICASO produced a Community Brief on U=U. This community brief explains why it is so important to understand what ‘U=U’ means for women. The brief documents the experiences and needs of individual women living with HIV from all over the world. Important questions still remain that need to be answered to make the U=U message relevant, understandable and more meaningful to women in their diversity.

  • Download the community brief in English here

HIV diagnoses hit seven year low: Australia’s annual HIV figures released

Kirby Institute, UNSW, Monday, 24 September 2018

Australia has recorded its lowest level of HIV diagnoses in seven years, according to a new report from the Kirby Institute at UNSW Sydney.

The report, released at the Australasian HIV&AIDS Conference in Sydney, found that there were 963 new HIV diagnoses in 2017, the lowest number since 2010.

Researchers are attributing the promising results to more people getting tested for HIV, more people living with HIV starting treatment which reduces the risk of HIV transmission to effectively zero, and an increased use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP, an HIV prevention pill).

However, it is not all good news. According to the report, a quarter of new HIV diagnoses in 2017 were among heterosexuals, with a 10% increase in diagnoses over the past five years.

Among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations, HIV diagnoses have been increasing over the past five years, with rates almost two times higher than the Australian-born non-Indigenous population in 2017.

The time for action on Human T-Lymphotrophic Virus has arrived: An open letter to WHO

Australasian Society for HIV Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM), 10 May 2018

ASHM has joined the call by leading Human T-Lymphotrophic Virus 1 (HTLV-1) researchers, clinicians and patients to take action on HTLV-1 by signing an open letter to the WHO, published in an abbreviated form in The Lancet. The letter calls on the WHO to support the promotion of proven, effective transmission prevention strategies for HTLV-1, in much the same way it already does for HIV, HBV and HCV.

ASHM established an 2016, to bring together researches, clinicians and community representatives at an annual round table to raise awareness of HTLV-1 and share the latest information. Up to 40% of the  HTLV-1 working group ipopulation of some Central Australian communities are positive for HTLV-1, which can cause cancer, neurological problems and immune disorders, including chronic lung inflammation leading to bronchiectasis.

“Specifically for Australia, we have all of the key components required for an effective response to this virus – indigenous clinical leadership; the medical research skills and capacity; and two forthcoming developments in treatment and vaccine development,” said Professor Damian Purcell, Head of Molecular Virology Laboratory, The University of Melbourne at the Doherty Institute and member of the ASHM HTLV-1 working group.

“But we need the support of the WHO and Australian Government to accelerate research and implement these strategies.”

ASHM have been advocating for the inclusion of HTLV-1 in the yet-to-be released Fifth National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Blood-Borne Viruses and Sexually Transmissible Infections Strategy as a Priority Action.

Read the full letter available on the Global Virus Network website

‘People are scared’: the fight against a deadly virus no one has heard of

Guardian Australia, Tue 24 Apr 2018 

An Aboriginal woman – we’ll call her B – is sitting in a dry creek bed outside her community and telling the world “this is a very bad disease. But we have to talk in a way not to shame people. Not telling them straight out. Telling them gently and quietly.”

B is talking about a sickness that has killed her family member and is a potential tragedy facing Aboriginal communities in central Australia, who have the world’s highest rates of a fatal, human immune virus for which there is no current cure, no treatment and no coordinated public health response.

Human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) is transmitted through sexual contact, blood transfusion and from mother to child by breastfeeding. It can cause a rapidly fatal form of leukaemia. Some people die within weeks of diagnosis. HTLV-1 also causes inflammation of the spinal cord leading to paralysis, severe lung disease known as bronchiectasis and other inflammatory disease.

In five communities around Alice Springs, more than 45% of adults tested have the virus, a rate thousands of times higher than for non-Indigenous Australians.

The Evidence for U=U: Why Negligible Risk Is Zero Risk

August 10, 2017

Over the last year, hundreds of HIV organisations have joined a new campaign to endorse the statement that HIV transmission does not occur when viral load is undetectable on ART.

And while the dramatic impact of ART on reducing HIV transmission has been known for a long time, it is new to say ART stops transmission completely.