QuAC President Peter Black on declining HIV rates

quac president peter black HIV transmission rates
Queensland Council for LGBTI Health president Peter Black. Photo: Funky Munky

QuAC President Peter Black spoke yesterday afternoon with Sarah Howells on ABC Radio’s Afternoons with Katherine Feeney about declining rates of HIV transmission in Australia.

New research from the Kirby Institute at the University of NSW released yesterday shows, in 2018, Australia recorded the lowest number of HIV diagnoses since 2001.

Rates declined substantially over past five years.

However, the decline occurred mainly in gay and bisexual men, with no decline among heterosexuals or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations.

The QuAC president said the decline did not come as a surprise.

Peter attributed the decline to “a great deal of work done throughout the community, throughout the medical sectors, throughout the research sectors, and with government over the last several years to try and bring down new transmissions of HIV.”

He particularly pointed to the success of PrEP, now added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

Peter said a number of contributing factors led to the decline.

“One is the successful uptake of PrEP, particularly among gay and bisexual men.”

However, he noted the increased number of people testing for HIV also contributed to the decline.

People living with HIV now begin treatments earlier as a result of earlier diagnosis.

Those people then have an undetectable viral load. That means that it is not medically possible for those individuals to transmit HIV.

“So, it’s a combination of more testing, early treatment, and the use of PrEP which has seen a success in the reduction of HIV transmission rates.”

“In Queensland, we experienced a drop of 65 over the five-year period. That translates to about a 26% decrease in the number of HIV diagnoses.

“Queensland’s trend is very much in line with the rest of the country.”

Peter Black said he hoped to see a continued decline.

Areas of concern

However, he also said that all communities across Queensland and the country did not share the same declines.

The declines occurred among gay and bisexual men.

“The rates of transmission among heterosexual men stayed static.

“But also I think very significantly among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBTI Sistergirl and Brotherboy people have not seen a similar decline.

“Those rates remained stagnant.

“That is quite concerning.

“It means community organisations, government and the medical and research sectors need to work with those communities.

“We must ensure that the success targeting the gay and bisexual communities is carried over to other at-risk communities.”

Peter’s interview is available online.

Interview begins at 1:43:15

For further information on HIV check out QuAC.

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