Another gay man has come forward claiming he was unable to access HIV-preventative medication from his local health centre due to ignorance of proper procedure from medical staff.
Following the Star Observer’s report last week on a major hospital refusing to prescribe PEP medication to an at-risk gay man, a second man has claimed he was unable to access the medication from multiple regional health centres.
20-year old Orange man Joseph*, whose name has been changed, claims that on Saturday, June 23 last year he was unable to access PEP medication from Orange Base Hospital as medical staff were unsure what the medication was.
Joseph immediately attempted to make an appointment with a local sexual health clinic, but was not seen for three days. When Joseph finally gained access to the clinic, he was told their PEP medication was out of stock.
Canberra’s peak HIV organisation welcomes introduction of rapid HIV testing in Australia
The AIDS Action Council of the ACT (AAC) has welcomed news of the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration’s (TGA) approval of the first rapid HIV screening tool, the Alere DetermineTM HIV Combo test, in Australia.
Point of Care, or rapid testing, is a standard method for screening for HIV in many parts of the world, but this is the first of its kind to be allowed for use in Australia. Rapid HIV testing provides a result within 30 minutes, while traditional formats for screening HIV can take up to a week for results. This makes it an ideal tool for use in not just clinical settings, but also community-based clinics such as the STRIP (Sexual Health Testing Referral and Information Project) Outreach Clinics offered by the AAC in partnership with Canberra Sexual Health Centre and Medicare Local ACT.
Dr Alan Verhagen, President of the AAC, says ‘this is an integral part of any successful response to the challenges we are facing with HIV in 2012’. With the release on the 1st of December, World AIDS Day, of the Australian Response to the United National Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS, Turning Political Will into Action, Australia is committed to seeing a 50% reduction in new HIV infections by 2015. ‘We know that by identifying an HIV infection sooner, a person can make an informed decision with their doctors such as when to start using HIV medications’.
Jan Weir, Executive Director of the AAC, has said that she is excited for the possibilities and how this will affect the work of the AAC. ‘We have a lot of work ahead of us to meet our commitments not only to the UN, but also to the communities that we work with. We have a new message, a new option, around HIV testing that we know was the last hurdle for some people, especially gay men, getting an HIV test’.
There are still more HIV screening tools being reviewed by the TGA and it is hoped over the coming years a variety of these will become available to increase the range of methods and locations that we can detect HIV infections.
In 2011, there were 1,137 people diagnosed with HIV in Australia. This was an 8% increase from 2010.
WORLD AIDS DAY 2012 - TOWARDS AN AIDS FREE GENERATION : TURNING POLITICAL WILL INTO ACTION
Can we look into the faces of our children and promise them a world free of AIDS?
The AIDS Action Council of the ACT (AAC) believes that we can, but only if we follow political commitment with action now. An AIDS free generation means that nobody in Australia will be born with HIV – the virus that causes AIDS – and that the risk of acquiring HIV will be substantially reduced as they grow older. For those that do acquire the virus, they will get treatment that will keep them healthy and prevent them from transmitting HIV to others.
In June 2011, the Australian Federal Government signed the United Nations Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS. As a signatory country, Australia is committed to a 50% reduction in sexual transmission of HIV and transmission of HIV amongst people who inject drugs by 2015. Australia has also committed to the elimination of mother to child transmission by the same time frame.
At the 2012 Washington International AIDS Conference, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pointed the world toward achieving an AIDS-Free generation now. For the first time since the Human Immunodeficiency Virus was discovered 30 years ago, this is a truly realistic goal. This is made possible by the increased effectiveness of treatments, which substantially reduces the possibility of a person with HIV passing it on to others whilst also eliminating the chances of HIV progressing to AIDS. For Australia and the ACT, this means we must increase testing rates amongst those most vulnerable to HIV, such as men who have sex with men, and improving access to antiretroviral treatments.
Study to shed light on mental health issues for trans people.
A Curtin University researcher has received funding from Beyondblue to investigate the prevalence of depression and anxiety disorders among transgender and transsexual (trans) people.
The funding of $163,268 will enable Dr Zoë Hyde, the Principal Investigator, to collaborate with Curtin colleagues from the Department of Sexology, the School of Psychology and Speech Pathology, and the WA Centre for Health Promotion Research, as well as researchers from The University of Western Australia.
“Trans people are a population that has received limited attention from public health researchers, planners and practitioners,” Dr Hyde said.
“Much of what is known about this population is informed by research conducted overseas and few studies in this area have been conducted in Australia.
“A growing body of evidence suggests that trans people experience disparities in several important areas of health compared with the population generally.
“In particular, trans people are more likely to experience mental health problems (notably depression and anxiety disorders), use alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs, and think about or attempt suicide.
“Additionally, trans people commonly report that their physical and mental health needs are not met, and that they underutilise preventive health care.”
Dr Hyde said the aim of the study was to gain an accurate, national snapshot of the mental health of trans people in Australia. Together with interested agencies and service providers, the researchers would advocate for the incorporation of the findings into the planning and development of current and future mental health promotion programs.
“This grant will go a long way to achieving these goals,” Dr Hyde said.
“We are quite excited by the project and the opportunity to highlight the importance of addressing mental health gaps.”
Highlighting HIV and heart disease link on World AIDS Day
The National Heart Foundation of Australia is urging people living with HIV to learn more about their increased risk of heart disease and how to help prevent it, on 1 December for World AIDS Day. Dr Lyn Roberts, CEO of the Heart Foundation, said in general people living with HIV have a higher risk of heart disease than HIV-negative people and World AIDS Day provided a good opportunity to start the conversation about the risks of heart disease.
“Thanks to modern medicine, people living with HIV are living longer, with a life expectancy similar to HIV-negative people,” Dr Roberts said.
“However with age come different health challenges, as we now see people living with HIV experiencing other chronic diseases such as heart disease, which is the number one killer of Australians.”
Around 21,000 Australians are currently living with HIV, with approximately 1,000 new cases each year. Globally an estimated 33.3 million people have HIV.iii
Research shows people living with HIV have more than four times the risk of heart attack than HIV-negative people and it’s estimated that cardiovascular disease causes more than 10% of deaths among HIV-positive people. [i]&[ii]
“The Heart Foundation has developed a resource that details risk factors and information about heart health specifically for people living with HIV,” Dr Roberts added.
“We want to provide support and education about risk factors for heart disease to help people to live longer, healthier lives.
“To reduce the risk of heart disease all Australians, including people living with HIV, should lead a healthy lifestyle by reducing their risk factors, making healthier food choices, being physically active and looking after their social and emotional wellbeing.
“I encourage people to contact the Heart Foundation’s Health Information Service on 1300 36 27 87 to talk to one of our qualified health professionals and to request a copy of the resource for people living with HIV.
“Since launching the publication a few months ago we have already distributed more than 2,000 copies.”
Cardiovascular wellness for people living with HIV has been produced by the Heart Foundation, supported by an unrestricted educational grant from Gilead. For a copy please call the Heart Foundation’s Health Information Service on 1300 36 27 87 or visit www.heartfoundation.org.au/hiv.
Living with the stigma of HIV harder than living with the disease
This quote from ‘Jim’ is one of a number of stories from an innovative Australian crowd sourced campaign that seeks to gather the voices of HIV stigma and resilience called the ENUF campaign.
"HIV is something we must talk about openly, clearly and honestly. Being scared to discuss it reinforces the shame and stigma that currently exists for those living with HIV ” says Sam Venning President of Living Positive Victoria, “This year’s World AIDS Day theme of “HIV is still here” reminds us all that it is only the sustained and combined strategies of government, researchers and community based organisations that will help us end the HIV epidemic."
Living Positive Victoria and the Burnet Institute are co-hosting the official launch of World AIDS Day at Parliament with the Health Minister the Hon. David Davis launching the day in the Parliament gardens on 1 December at 10:30 am.
Two HIV positive speakers will also be featured who will share their stories of living with HIV and emphasise that HIV is still here and that stigma and discrimination still exists across the community.
"I encourage everyone to address stigma and discrimination by reading and signing up to the ENUF campaign. Our voices are ENUF to end HIV stigma and discrimination" says Venning.
For more information on the ENUF campaign and how to get involved visit enuf.org.au
Part 1 My Life on PrEP – How I Learned to Stop Worrying, and Start Taking The Pill
PrEP is an HIV prevention option currently available in the U.S. and Truvada is the medication prescribed. PrEP can be a complex issue that raises a number of questions. I wanted to provide a column that captured someone’s authentic experience around PrEP. I wanted it to be honest and frank because issues of gay men’s health must be dealt with candor and sincerity. This is not just a prescription. This is simply one person’s experience with a safe and legal biomedical option for reducing HIV infection. I hope this will be informative and we welcome your feedback.
Over the past three years, I’ve noticed something about my sex life. For a host of reasons that this column will be exploring, I’d all but stopped using condoms. This set-in most clearly during a recent out-of-town trip when a guy who’s Manhunt profile lectured others about “wrapping it up” spit on my hole, shoved it in, and fucked me raw. I was absolutely ecstatic. In that moment – caught off-guard by expectations and overcome with pleasure – I realized just how much my desires had changed.
It occurred to me some days later that maybe this pre-exposure prophylaxis – or PrEP, as it’s commonly known – might be for me. I was clearly the ideal candidate: a bottom with lots of partners who uses condoms inconsistently (read: almost never) and who doesn’t want to test positive. That last bit is hard for some to understand, since many believe that guys who fuck raw must subconsciously desire to be infected. I care about staying negative and have made strategic choices about my sex partners to that end. Well, “strategic” makes it sound scientific. Let’s be real: some of those choices were more like hopeful wishes. But the desire that drove them was the same as any scientific measure: prevent seroconversion.