The big news today is the confirmation of what many of us have suspected for some time: HIV infection rates are on the rise. Though strangely enough, not in Queensland, which has left the health minister Lawrence n Springborg looking rather silly for having defunded the HIV prevention agency, Queensland Association for Healthy Communities (QAHC).
The news comes as the Melbourne Declaration is launched – follow the link to sign it and show your support. It calls for the fast introduction of rapid HIV testing in Australia, increased use of anti-retroviral drugs as a preventative measure, and putting people on anti-HIV meds as soon as they’re infected. The launch coincides with the opening of the Australiasian HIV AIDS Conference in Melbourne, which runs until 19 October. You can sign up for regular conference bulletins on the site.
The figures come from the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales, and they don’t make comfortable reading. Follow the link for the full document. A rise of 8% after four years of more or less stable rates of infection seems a lot – but this represents only an increase of just under 100 cases over the year. Ovewrall, Australian infection rates remain low.
There has been a lot of chatter about the number of people taking risks, in particular, contriving scenarios in which they feel safe to abandon condoms, which these figures would seem to confirm. This is also the reason for the push for new prevention measures, including the use of anti-HIV drugs as a preventative. Or to put it another way, for perfectly healthy people to start taking anti-retrovirals regularly in order top prevent themselves catching the virus. This will no doubt be opposed by so-called ‘morals’ campaigners on the grounds that it will encourage promiscuity, but hey, that horse bolted a long while ago.
Check out Miles Heffernan’s series on HIV, in particular the proposed new prevention strategies, here on The Stirrer.