Tuesday, 7 June 2016

World leading HIV testing and transmission reduction - NSW, Australia

I've had my doubts about this but you can't argue with the statistics I guess. New South Wales has in recent years embarked on a major strategy to reduce HIV infection rates to virtually nothing by 2020, a big commitment considering 17% of gay men in Sydney's east are HIV+.

However the strategy is to get people tested regularly for HIV, and get them on to HIV meds as soon as possible after they diagnose as positive. This involved a big media campaign that went beyond simply the gay community and in to main stream advertising. We've also had extremely positive moves (pun intended) by the New South Wales gov in recent months whereby NSW paid the prescription co-payment for the HIV meds, making them free for all in the state.

The results so far have been quite astonishing and world leading. This the NSW health minister, part of his reply to a question from gay Independent Alex Greenwich:
The latest statistics available relate to 2015. They indicate that almost 500,000 HIV tests were undertaken in New South Wales that year, which is an increase of 77 per cent on the previous year and nearly 20 per cent more than were undertaken in 2012. More than 45,000 HIV tests were conducted in New South Wales public sexual health clinics, which is an increase of 32 per cent on the previous year. HIV tests of gay and homosexually active people in New South Wales public sexual health clinics increased by 64 per cent compared to the previous year. In addition, advances in treatment have been groundbreaking. Prior to the introduction of this strategy, treatment was delayed until people reached a certain level of infection. Research and evidence indicated that early treatment was the best approach.

Since then, 92 per cent of people with HIV receiving care in public HIV services were undergoing treatment in 2015. That is an astonishing figure. In addition, 82 per cent of people newly diagnosed with HIV in New South Wales in the first half of 2015 had commenced treatment within six months. It was recently announced that the Government would extend the trial of pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV negative people at high risk of becoming infected. The trial is being conducted by the Kirby Institute and already we have engaged more than 1,200 people. The target is 3,700 by the end of the year. It is estimated that at that point there will be a 50 per cent reduction in HIV infection and transmission in the community. That is why I am confident that we will meet our target of virtually ending the transmission of HIV by 2020. As I said to the media at that launch, and as I often say to those who work so tirelessly in this space, as health Minister there are many things that I can say I have achieved but it will be my greatest achievement if I can end the transmission of this terrible disease, HIV, by 2020. Alex Greenwich blog
Here are free testing clinics in and around Sydney