Could Australia become the first country to ‘eliminate’ HIV?

Recent results of a 10-year study indicate that Australia’s efforts could make it one of the first countries to ‘virtually eliminate’ HIV transmissions.

According to the study, conducted by the University of New South Wales’ Kirby Institute, the rate of HIV infection has decreased by 66% between 2010 and 2019.

The findings, published in Lancet HIV, also show that the rate of people accessing effective HIV treatment increased by 27%.

The study went on to show that the increased access to HIV treatment and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) – the medication that prevents a person from contracting HIV – was the driving factor to the decline in transmissions.

The study also endorsed the public health strategy of “treatment as prevention” (TasP), stating that HIV treatment “results in virally suppressing the HIV virus,” which reduces the risk of transmitting HIV to another person to zero.

The ‘big picture’ of HIV in Australia

Dr Denton Callander, who led the research at UNSW’s Kirby Institute, stated that the team analyzed data from over 100,000 gay and bi men:

“To test the ‘big picture’ impacts of this important HIV prevention strategy, we examined 10 years of clinical data from over 100,000 gay and bisexual men in New South Wales and Victoria,” said Dr Denton.

“We found that over time, as viral suppression increased, HIV incidence decreased.

“Indeed, every percentage point increase in successfully treated HIV saw a fivefold decrease in new infections, thus establishing treatment as prevention as a powerful public health strategy.

“Our research shows that investing in HIV testing is crucial for HIV elimination,” he says.

Stay PrEP’d, Australia

Professor Mark Stoové from the Burnet Institute, one of the senior authors on the paper, says that further investment is “crucial”:

“The results of this research show that further investment in HIV treatment – especially alongside PrEP – is a crucial component of HIV elimination.”

Meanwhille, Positive Life NSW CEO, Jane Costello, welcomes the research findings, saying, “People living with HIV have always known that TasP is an effective HIV prevention strategy to reduce the levels of the HIV virus in our bodies, slow the progression of HIV and its impact on our immune system, and offer protection to those we care about and love.”

But while a future where the complete elimination of HIV transmission is forseeable, we must continue to stay vigilant.

Get tested, get protected and get PrEP’d.

For more: Shame, stigma and the slutty little pill: the PrEP experience

Also: Big Aussie study shows incredible effectiveness of daily PrEP against HIV

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Nate Woodall

QNews, Brisbane Gay, App, Gay App, LGBTI, LGBTI News, Gay Australia

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