Health Minister announces HIV support funding on World AIDS Day

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has announced almost $6.2 million in funding to support people living with HIV and the path to elimination of new transmissions.

On behalf of the Morrison Government, Minister Hunt released a statement outlining their plans for distribution of the funds.

“Today, more than 28,000 Australians are living with HIV and it is very pleasing that most have a suppressed viral load. That means they’re healthy and unlikely to pass on the virus to anyone else,” the statement reads.

“Australia’s collective and long term track record and leadership in HIV, working together to provide innovative treatments and supporting people living with HIV is respected globally, however – now more than ever – it’s important to maintain the focus.”

Minister Hunt says up to $1.5 million will be allocated to the Australian Federations of AIDS Organisations (AFAO), and the National Association of People with HIV Australia (NAPWHA) to cultivate a workforce development program, and up to $750,000 to Australian Injecting and Illicit Drug Users League (AVIL) to implement a number of projects.

The government will also allocate up to $1.4 million to the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM) to implement a number of projects, including a trans and gender diverse health care model and review of user experience.

A further $2.5 million will support innovation in the sector with grants of up to $500,000 to provide positive outcomes for the National Strategies priority populations.

Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) has welcomed the announcement from Minister Hunt, with AFAO CEO Darryl O’Donnell describing it as a “critical public health measure.”

“For too long, too many people in Australia who aren’t eligible for Medicare struggled to afford the medicine needed to keep them healthy. This act of leadership will give access to antiretroviral medicine to everyone in Australia who needs it. This is more than a question of treatment, it is also a question of prevention, because a person with an undetectable viral load cannot transmit HIV.

“The need to solve this issue has been long recognised. The Commonwealth and all State and Territories signed on to a solution through the eighth National HIV Strategy and we’re delighted that solution is now in sight.

“Clinicians across Australia have consistently raised the problem of Medicare ineligibility for HIV medicine. This will close an important gap in the Australian HIV response, allowing us to make further progress in treating and preventing HIV, and ultimately, in ending transmission.

“But most of all, people with HIV have advocated for this change. Led by the National Association of People with HIV Australia, advocates have marshalled the evidence and put forward the compelling case for this essential public health measure.

Minister Hunt also announced an additional $1.5 million in funding for HIV community workforce development. It comes as data released today by the Kirby Institute reveals Australia has met the UNAIDS global goals for HIV treatment and prevention, with 90 per cent of those living with HIV tested and diagnosed, 91 per cent on treatment and 97 per cent achieving an undetectable viral load.

“Australia has always been a global leader in the HIV response and today we can be proud of reaching this important milestone. We are among a small handful of nations to meet the UNAIDS 2020 goal,” O’Donnell said.

“However we can and should be more ambitious. We must double down. With renewed political and financial commitment we can achieve 95/95/95. Minister Hunt’s decision to invest in the HIV community workforce will bolster these efforts.”

Despite domestic progress, UNAIDS data points to the enduring challenge faced in the global and regional HIV response. In Asia and the Pacific, approximately 5.8 million people are living with HIV, but only 3.6 million have access to treatment.

Australia’s Foreign Minister, Senator Marise Payne, also announced at this morning’s event Australia will co-chair the next United General Assembly High Level Meeting on HIV and AIDS in 2021.

“Australia has made critical contributions to each five yearly UN meeting on HIV since 2001. We last co-chaired the meeting in 2011, when Australia’s leadership saw the world to commit to ambitious targets to end AIDS.”

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