40-year AIDS anniversary sparks push to end transmission

Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO)

As the world marks 40 years since the first five cases of AIDS were officially reported, Australian HIV researchers and community leaders are preparing to release a roadmap to the virtual elimination of HIV in Australia by 2025.

On June 5, 1981 the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) described five cases of Pneumocystis Pneumonia in young gay men in Los Angeles. The five men died in hospital from what researchers later understood to be AIDS-related illness.

Since then, an estimated 32.7 million people have died from AIDS-related illness globally. Due to evidence-based policy crafted around real world behaviour, Australia’s HIV/AIDS burden has been comparatively light. Under 10,000 people have died of an AIDS-related illness and approximately 26,000 people are living with HIV.

Now, four decades on, advances in HIV prevention and treatment along with new testing technology mean Australia can realistically aim for virtual elimination of HIV transmission by 2025, provided we remove access barriers and commit additional funding.

A new roadmap document, Agenda 2025: Ending HIV transmission in Australia will be launched at Parliament House on June 17.

“With the right policy settings and investment, Australia can end HIV transmission in just four short years” said Darryl O’Donnell, chief executive of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations.

“This was unthinkable when the epidemic began. We now need to double-down as we push toward our goal. This will require new political resolve to remove the barriers to testing and treatment and make the funding available to get the job done.

“The risk today is we don’t take up the challenge. Australia risks people acquiring HIV needlessly, producing a huge human toll and wasting money on treatment and care costs that could have been avoided.”

The plan is being endorsed by all leading HIV organisations in Australia as a unified call for action.

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