Positive Life NSW Logo 2021

Media Release

1 December 2021

In a world focussed on COVID-19, Positive Life NSW welcomes World AIDS Day 2021 this Wednesday 01 December, as a reminder that an earlier and even more pernicious pandemic is still with us.

As we near the end of the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic with just over 5 million deaths worldwide, the HIV pandemic still presents a challenge with over 39 million deaths globally from AIDS-related illnesses, forty years after the first AIDS cases were reported.

“Even with today’s knowledge, treatments and tools, we have not ended HIV transmission four decades on, due to the systemic inequalities and lack of awareness that restrict access to HIV prevention and treatment,” said Positive Life NSW CEO, Jane Costello.

“Division, disruption and a lack of respect for human rights are among the failures that have allowed HIV to become and remain a health crisis, globally and locally,” said Ms Costello.

“We therefore warmly welcome Health Minister the Hon. Greg Hunt’s announcement today that the Australian government is contributing $39 million to ensure access to HIV antiretroviral medication for all in Australia, regardless of Medicare eligibility,” she said.

“As COVID-19 exacerbates inequalities and disrupts services, HIV testing and access to HIV treatment have been impacted across all communities, including heterosexual people, women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds,” said Robert Agati, President of Positive Life NSW.

“We cautiously interpret the data released today by the Kirby Institute at UNSW Sydney, showing a 30% decline in HIV diagnoses in 2020,” said Mr Agati. “This may be attributed to a decline in HIV testing during a time of COVID-19 lockdowns and social restrictions,” he said.

“Unfortunately, in 2020, nearly half (44%) of the people who were diagnosed with HIV are ‘late diagnoses’ meaning that they had been living with HIV for four or more years without knowing it, or receiving any HIV treatment,” said Ms Costello.

“This is a timely call to anyone who is sexually active to play their part in ending HIV transmission by getting a HIV test to take care of your health and that of your partners,” said Ms Costello.  “The longer someone lives with HIV without getting any treatment, the greater the impact HIV will have on their own immune system.”

While there is still no vaccine or cure for HIV, with today’s highly effective treatments and prevention options, people living with HIV can reduce the level of HIV virus in their body to extremely low levels (undetectable) which also means they can’t pass HIV on.

Testing is free, quick, private and confidential, at your GP, or any of the more than 50 NSW Sexual Health Clinics or Aboriginal Medical Services. To find out where to go to get tested call the NSW Sexual Health Infolink on 1800 451 624.

If you need support to get a HIV test, or to let your partners know about an STI diagnosis, call Positive Life on (02) 8357 8386 or 1800 245 677. Today HIV is a manageable health condition and people can go on to live long, healthy, and active lives.

Positive Life NSW in partnership with Bobby Goldsmith Foundation (BGF) will also mark 2021 World AIDS Day with a ceremony at Darling Harbour.

Jane Costello, CEO – (02) 8357 8386 or email communications@positivelife.org.au

Positive Life NSW is the voice of all people living with HIV in NSW since 1988. We are the largest peer-led and run representative body of all people living with HIV in Australia based in NSW. We make a significant contribution to and positive impact across the spectrum of health and social issues on behalf of all people living with HIV in collaboration with HIV specialist and mainstream services to improve the health and quality of life of all people living with HIV in NSW. We do this through evidence based health promotion, research, policy advice and peer support.

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