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New Projects to Tackle Indigenous HIV/AIDS

A report out this month by the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) shows that the level of funding currently committed to indigenous health has not been enough to generate tangible gains. Indigenous Health Organisations have hit out at State and Federal Governments for not showing leadership on the issue. In a statement Dea Thiele CEO of NACCHO said:

‘According to the United Nations Human Development Report from 2003 the proportion of Aboriginal Australians expected to live to age 65 is lower than less developed nations like Bangladesh and Nigeria’

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In 2005 a study for the Medical Journal of Australia led by Michael Wright identified that from 1985-2002 HIV notification rates for non-indigenous people in WA declined but rates for indigenous people increased. Two years later the incidence of HIV in indigenous Australian communities has moved closer to being comparable to that of the non-indigenous community, but the lack of access to antiretroviral pharmaceuticals , essential health care services and health professionals, has created a stark increase of HIV turning into AIDS within Indigenous communities. In his report Michael Wright stated:

‘What is of particular concern is high rates of sexually transmitted infections in young people. Most of these infections are easily treated with antibiotics – but it’s apparent that general educational messages are not engaging Aboriginal people’

Thiele suggests, ‘Provide adequate funding as well as resources, allow Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to shape and control their own health programs and we will solve the health crisis in our communities’

Awareness of the impact of the disease is one of the major obstacles to prevention, and National Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS (NAPWA) this month launched a landmark cultural project with the support of Channel 7 media personality Erika Heynatz. The project includes the launch of a CD ‘Two Songs for Healing’, which chronicles the impact of HIV on indigenous communities, and will be funded by the proceeds of telephone votes made in support of Erika’s winning performance on reality program ‘It Takes Two’. Proceeds will benefit NAPWA’s indigenous group (PATSIN). Terrilee Simpson Convenor of PATSIN said:

‘The launch of the CD is an important milestone for our network, and Erika’s generous support has helped make this possible… PATSIN is empowering indigenous people to speak out about HIV in their communities, raising awareness of the impact of HIV on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and working to end the AIDS epidemic through grass-roots action which directly involves people living with and affected by HIV’

Craig Comrie

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