Study reveals Aboriginal communities at higher risk of STIs and HIV
At the launch of the International Indigenous Pre Conference on HIV and AIDS, James Ward, deputy head of Aboriginal Health at the Baker Institute has advised a radical response is needed to manage the high rates of STIs and HIV infection in Indigenous communities.
The results of a recent study has revealed in some remote communities almost half of young women and a third of young men are infected with either chlamydia, gonorrhoea or trichomonas, and Ward advised the risk of HIV transmission is significantly increased in the presence of an existing STI.
In addition, the report revealed the incidents of new HIV notifications attributable to injecting drug use is 12-times higher in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations than the national average; more women and heterosexuals are affected by HIV and more Indigenous gay men are engaging in high risk behavior.
Ward warned the stage is set for HIV infection rates to rise, unless an action plan is undertaken.
“The ground is set for HIV to escalate,” said Ward, who will be a plenary speaker at AIDS 2014 next week. “A failure to scale up our actions will result in an unmanageable epidemic. We can either act now and adapt our response to HIV or face an unmanageable epidemic.”
As such, the Baker Institute has developed the Eora Action plan to escalate the Indigenous community response to HIV.
The Eora Action Plan sets targets that go above and beyond Australia’s newly released National Strategies for blood-borne viruses and sexually transmissible infections. It calls to:
- Reduce new HIV infections by 50%
- Eliminate all mother to child transmissions
- Ensure antiretroviral treatments are available and accessible and correctly utilised by 80%
- 50% reduction in other STIs
- Reduce rates of sharing injecting equipment by 80%
“The HIV epidemic in Indigenous Australians is different and it requires a different response. For the first time we are getting more detailed data on the factors that leave Indigenous Australians so vulnerable and we need to tackle these head on,” Ward said.
“The Eora Action Plan provides a road map to achieve this. All organisations involved in HIV prevention, including government, have a responsibility to work in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities to achieve these goals and actions,” concluded Ward.