The theme for WAD this year was relevant as we saw the lowest rate of HIV diagnoses in Australia since 2020 but did not see a reduction of diagnoses in some communities. Now more than ever we need to leave no community behind.
World AIDS Day is held on the 1 December each year to commemorate and show support for people living with HIV. Today, HIV is considered a chronic but manageable condition and people with HIV can lead long and healthy lives, with a similar life expectancy to a person who does not have HIV. However, stigma and discrimination and a lack of awareness about HIV still persist in many communities.
2018 saw the lowest rate of HIV diagnoses in Australia since 2010. Although this is great news, HIV will not be eliminated in Australia unless HIV diagnoses are reduced in all communities. As numbers reduce for gay and bisexual men, it is vital other populations are not left behind. It is therefore even more important to make sure that HIV awareness is increased in these communities.
Many people in NSW are still diagnosed late. In 2018 there were an estimated 2690 (10%) people living with HIV in Australia who were unaware of their HIV status (undiagnosed). Heterosexuals, (14%,) people born in South East Asia (27%) and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (12%) have high rates of late diagnosis. The sooner people living with HIV are diagnosed, treatment is initiated and the virus is suppressed the better the health outcomes at both an individual and a population level.
Early detection and treatment are key to managing HIV. The HIV and Related Programs (HARP) team (SLHD) is now a site for the Dried Blood Spot study and as such can conduct Dried Blood Spot (DBS) testing on an outreach basis. This enables people without Medicare cards to be tested for HIV and hepatitis. On 26 November the HARP team held a WAD event at Newtown Neighbourhood Centre. Over 14 people were engaged over a four hour period and 10 DBS tests were completed. There was a high Aboriginal representation in the engaged group. The clients were all very impressed with the simplicity and timeliness of the DBS process.
Pozhet sits in the HARP team which plays a leading role in raising awareness around World AIDS Day. In 2020, Pozhet used its social media page and website and the SLHD intranet to post information and a quiz about HIV and WAD. In 2020 a stall in the foyer of RPA used a quiz as an engagement tool to talk to 165 workers, patients and visitors about HIV and WAD.
Other activities included:
- A ‘World AIDS Day’ daily screening/clearance sticker on 1 December for all staff and visitors
- A short WAD presentation by A/Professor Roger Garsia at District Staff Information Session chaired by our CE, Dr Teresa Anderson at 10am on 1 December
- The promotion of the ‘Stigma, discrimination and injecting drug use’ HETI eLearning module on SLHD intranet (banner)
- A social media banner and post on Sydney Connect and District social media platforms
- A WAD article in CESPHN GP Newsletter