NSW signs pledge to end HIV epidemic by 2030

ACON's Red Ribbon Appeal 2023 ahead of World AIDS Day
Image: ACON

NSW has signed on to a global pledge to end the HIV epidemic by 2030, following other Aussie states as well as hundreds of cities worldwide vowing to eliminate HIV transmission.

Friday, December 1, is World AIDS Day, honouring those affected by HIV. NSW Health Minister Ryan Park has today signed the global Paris Declaration on Fast-Track Cities agreement.

The agreement commits the state to targets including ensuring 95 per cent of people living with HIV know their status and eliminating all HIV-related stigma.

It also includes targets of 95 per cent of people going on to receive antiretroviral therapy (ART), as well as 95 per cent of those people maintaining viral suppression.

“NSW is a leader in HIV prevention and treatment in Australia and continues to reduce the number of new transmissions each year thanks to the hard work of health staff, the community, and community groups,” Ryan Park (below) said.

“This World AIDS Day, I want to remind the community that HIV doesn’t discriminate, and neither should we. Stigma and discrimination are barriers to HIV prevention, testing and treatment.

“By signing this commitment, I’m pledging to eliminate HIV-related stigma in healthcare settings so that we can improve the quality of life for people living with HIV.”

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant urged people to undertake regular STI screening, including HIV testing, to allow for early diagnosis and linkage to care and help NSW meet the targets.

NSW Health Minister Ryan Park
Image: Ryan Park/Facebook

‘Still parts of our communities that need more focus’

ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill welcomed the pledge and said NSW has in recent years made great progress, but keeping up the momentum is crucial.

“We have seen some good results in some areas and groups, like inner city community-connected gay and bisexual men,” he said

“[However] we know there are still parts of our communities that need more greater focus.

“For example, we are not seeing the same declines in HIV infections among those living outside metropolitan areas, like western and south-western Sydney, as well as among overseas-born gay and bisexual men.

“Ensuring these groups are receiving appropriate and tailored HIV testing, prevention and treatment messages is critical.”

Sadly, HIV stigma and discrimination still persist and must be addressed to end transmission, Nicolas Parkhill (below) added.

“We know that stigma can have profound effects on people living with HIV, in terms of both their physical and mental wellbeing,” he said.

“It can also prevent others at risk from seeking resources and getting tested. It’s important to challenge and address HIV stigma not only today, but every day.”

ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill wearing a Red Ribbon
Image: Supplied

Read also: How Australia could become first nation to ‘eliminate’ HIV transmission

ACON has welcomed a new report by the federal government’s HIV Taskforce that federal Health Minister Mark Butler released this week for World AIDS Day.

The taskforce includes representatives of people with HIV, academics, health professionals, sex workers, the First Nations health sector, the LGBTIQA+ community and people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

The new report sets out various recommendations including making HIV prevention pill PrEP more easily available and boosting its use.

It also recommends more awareness of HIV, more testing among hard-to-reach populations and fewer financial barriers to treatment.

The report will drive the government’s 9th National HIV Strategy, currently under development.

Health Minister Mark Butler said the strategy will help ramp up Australia’s bid to eliminate HIV transmission by 2030.

“Australia has a strong, bipartisan history in our world-leading response to the HIV pandemic,” Health Minister Mark Butler said.

“However, there are still significant challenges that need to be addressed to end HIV transmission in Australia.”

Health Equity Matters CEO Darryl O’Donnell said the report gives Australia a “clear path” to ending the HIV epidemic within a decade.

“It emphasises Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), testing, treatment, awareness and decriminalisation,” he said.

“It draws on the powerful and effective partnership between community, clinicians, researchers and government that’s served Australia so well since the start of the HIV epidemic.

“Inner Sydney has already been confirmed as the first community in the world to achieve the virtual elimination of HIV transmission.

“Australia can be the first nation.

“There is no easy win here – the effort required is serious, but the prize is to end an epidemic.”

35th anniversary of World AIDS Day

2023 marks the 35th anniversary of the first World AIDS Day. The event began in 1988 to raise awareness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic across the globe.

On Friday, there are events across Australia to commemorate World AIDS Day.

“World AIDS Day provides us with an opportunity to pause and remember the millions of people who’ve died of an AIDS-related illness, as well as those who cared for them,” ACON’s Nicolas Parkhill said.

“We pay tribute to the courage and resilience of people living with HIV in NSW and around the world.”

Read next: These are the HIV myths that need to take a hike

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Jordan Hirst
Jordan Hirst

Jordan Hirst is an experienced journalist and content creator with a career spanning over a decade at QNews. Since 2012, the Brisbane local has covered an enormous range of topics and subjects in-depth affecting the LGBTIQA+ community, both in Australia and overseas. Today, the Brisbane-based journalist covers everything from current affairs, politics and health to sport and entertainment.

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