Activities are being held around the country in the first week of December to mark Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HIV Awareness Week (ATSIHAW) and stimulate conversations about HIV prevention and the importance of regular testing in the community.
This year, a symposium for local Aboriginal health and community workers will highlight the latest research, surveillance trends, prevention, treatment and management of HIV, including other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and blood borne viruses (Hep B and Hep C).
The symposium is the result of a partnership between Bulgarr Ngaru Medical Aboriginal Corporation, Bullinah Aboriginal Heatlh Service, ACON Health Northern Rivers and North Coast HARP (Mid North Coast and Northern NSW Local Health Districts).
Presentations will cover local initiatives in Northern NSW in blood borne virus and STI prevention and treatment. Keynote speakers include internationally acclaimed Aboriginal researcher, Dr James Ward, Associate Professor and Head of Infectious Diseases Research in Aboriginal Health at the South Australia Health and Medical Research Institute and Dr Chris Bourne, Head of NSW STI Programs Unit at the Centre for Population Health, NSW Health.
“Despite efforts to reduce STIs, HIV and blood borne viruses, these conditions continue to occur disproportionately among Aboriginal peoples,” Dr Ward said.
“This is not acceptable nor defensible. We must prioritise our efforts toward Aboriginal peoples now as communities, as health care providers and as program and policy managers to turn around HIV, hepatitis C and chlamydia occurring at 2, 5 and 3 times the national diagnosis rate among non-Indigenous peoples.
“Innovative research and programs on the ground which are influenced and controlled by Aboriginal peoples will be the first and best solutions to solving these complex issues.”
NSW has made significant progress towards the goal of virtually eliminating HIV transmission by 2020, with a 13 per cent drop in the number of new diagnoses in NSW between January to September, compared to the previous five-year average.
The NSW Government has committed $22.4 million in 2019-20 to strengthen testing, treatment and prevention with 47 state-funded Sexual Health Clinics also making
testing easily accessible.
The symposium will be held at the Ballina Surf Club on Monday 2 December from 9am – 3pm.