ACON responds to draft National HIV Strategy
The AIDS Council of New South Wales (ACON) has responded to the Commonwealth Government’s release of the draft 7th National HIV Strategy by highlighting areas of action needed and also criticizing some elements of the draft.
“ACON, in conjunction with the NSW Government and a range of community, clinical and research-based stakeholders, is focused on ending HIV transmission in NSW by 2020. As the National HIV Strategy impacts significantly on the potential to reach this goal, ACON has prepared a submission in response to the draft Strategy,” ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill said.
ACON’s response highlights areas that only the Commonwealth Government can address to assist in the fight against HIV transmission, namely ensuring timely approval of new approaches to HIV testing, such as rapid testing, home-based testing devices and community-based testing sites; ensuring easier access to HIV antiretroviral treatment by permitting HIV medicines to be dispenses through community pharmacies as well as hospital pharmacies; and ensuring widespread, equitable access to rapid testing by listing rapid HIV tests under the Medicare Benefits Scheme.
ACON has also raised concerns with some elements of the strategy, such as the commitment to achieving a 50 per cent reduction in HIV transmissions by the end of 2015, which, given the short timelines, ACON believes is unrealistic.
The organisation is also concerned with the “overly negative” tone of the strategy.
“Given the science tells us that real change is possible with solid commitment from the affected communities and relevant stakeholders, ACON believes the Strategy should be more optimistic in its assessment of the situation,” Parkhill said.
Another criticism is that some of the language in the present form of the draft is “inappropriate and stigmatising”, such as accusing men who have sex with men of "complacency" regarding HIV.
The response sent to the Commonwealth Government states:
"The implicit blaming of gay men and other MSM is not appropriate to a national strategy and must be removed. This sort of language is not applied to other population groups in this Strategy and no one would expect a national strategy to accuse the community or an at-risk population of complacency about smoking, binge drinking, over eating or gambling. The draft 3rd National Sexually Transmissible Infections Strategy 2014-2017 for example does not use the word complacency in relation to young heterosexuals, despite very low rates of condom use and testing amongst sexually active younger people."
Parkhill explained, “ACON believes that more supportive and understanding language would help discourage a judgmental approach in terms of service delivery to gay men, and is also appropriate given the central role gay men have played in fighting HIV transmission for over three decades.”
ACON’s full submission is available on the ACON website: acon.org.au