feature tile Australia's HIV response strengthened with Health Minister's 2020 World Health Day announcements

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Australia’s HIV response strengthened

feature tile Australia's HIV response strengthened with Health Minister's 2020 World Health Day announcements

Australia’s HIV response strengthened

Among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the number of HIV diagnoses has fluctuated over the past five years, but diagnosis rates are still between 1.3–1.9 times higher than in Australian-born, non-Indigenous Australians. Professor James Ward from the University of Queensland says “To reduce this unacceptable gap, there needs to be sustained investment in targeted, culturally appropriate, community focused campaigns.”

Today (1 December 2020), on World AIDS Day, the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) has warmly welcomed a number of announcements from the Health Minister, the Hon. Greg Hunt MP, including the intention to ensure every person living in Australia with HIV has access to life saving antiretroviral medicine, regardless of Medicare eligibility. “This is a critical public health measure,” said Darryl O’Donnell, chief executive of the AFAO, “For too long, too many people in Australia who aren’t eligible for Medicare struggled to afford the medicine needed to keep them healthy. This act of leadership will give access to antiretroviral medicine to everyone in Australia who needs it. This is more than a question of treatment, it is also a question of prevention, because a person with an undetectable viral load cannot transmit HIV.”

Darryl O’Donnell continued, “Australia has always been a global leader in the HIV response and today with 90% of those living in Australia with HIV tested and diagnosed, 91% on treatment and 97% achieving an undetectable viral load, we can be proud of being among a small handful of nations to meet the UNAIDS 2020 global [90-90-90] goal for HIV treatment and prevention. This is an important milestone, however we can and should be more ambitious. We must double down. With renewed political and financial commitment we can achieve 95-95-95 [the ambitious strategy announced by UNAIDS in 2014, aiming to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 by achieving 95% diagnosed among all people living with HIV (PLHIV), 95% on antiretroviral therapy (ART) among diagnosed, and 95% virally suppressed (VS) among treated].”

AFAO has produced a number of resources you can view by clicking on the resource title below:

To listen to a recording of this morning’s 2020 World AIDS Day Parliamentary Breakfast click here.

To view the AFAO media release click here.

image of Minister Payne, Minister Wong and Minister Hunt at podium on World AIDS Day

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Marise Payne, Senator Penny Wong, Minister for Health, Greg Hunt at the 2020 World AIDS Day Parliamentary Breakfast. Image source: AFAO website.

feature tile 26.11.20 text Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HIV Awareness Week VIRTUAL TRIVIA & image of vector AIDS awareness ribbons, red, Torres Strait Islander & Aboriginal flag colours

NACCHO Health News Alert: HIV Awareness Week virtual trivia – bring your ‘A’ game

feature tile 26.11.20 text Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HIV Awareness Week VIRTUAL TRIVIA & image of vector AIDS awareness ribbons, red, Torres Strait Islander & Aboriginal flag colours

HIV Awareness Week virtual trivia – bring your ‘A’ game

Rates of HIV and STI notifications are higher among the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population than for the non-Indigenous population.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HIV Awareness Week (ATSIHAW) is held in the first week of December each year, to coincide with World AIDS Day. It provides an opportunity to engage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, as well as HIV researchers, doctors, health workers and policy-makers.

This year the University of Queensland’s Poche Centre for Indigenous Health and NACCHO are co-hosting ATSIHAW Virtual Trivia. This event will be hosted via Zoom, with a special guest presenter to be announced.

Participants are highly encouraged to wear sexual health costumes, as prizes will be awarded not only to the trivia winners, but best and worst dressed.

There are two types of registrations available – individual registration and group registration.

If you are participating as an individual, please select individual registration and you will be placed into a team.

If you are participating as a group, connecting to Zoom from one device, please select group registration. Maximum of six people per group registration.

To register click here.

text in purple font Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander HIV Awareness Week Virtual Trivia

4:00 PM – 5:30 PM (AEDT) Tuesday 1 December 2020Condoman with voice bubble 'First FIVE registrations will receive a lunch on us! and Lubelicious with voice bubble 'Prizes for BEST and WORST dressed up for grabs!'logos for UQ Poche Centres for Indigenous Health; U and ME can stop HIV - vector image of 3 awareness ribbons - one red, one with Torres Strait Islander flay, one with the Aboriginal flag; NACCHO logo black eagle superimposed on red map of Australian with yellow centrewww.naccho.org.au

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Landmark mental health report welcomed

silhouette of hand holding white sketch of brain against landscape with sunset

Landmark mental health report welcomed

Beyond Blue today welcomed the release by the Prime Minister of the Final Report of the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Mental Health and the National Suicide Prevention Adviser’s Interim Advice. Beyond Blue Chair the Hon Julia Gillard AC said: “These are seminal reports that will shape the future of the mental health and suicide prevention systems in this country. Importantly, they put people at the centre of what we hope will be landmark reforms. Beyond Blue looks forward to working with governments, sector colleagues and, crucially, people affected by mental health issues and suicide, to remake these systems so they provide the right support at the right time for all people in Australia.”

The country’s leading provider of suicide prevention training says the release of the Productivity Commission’s Report into Mental Health is a reminder that co-ordination is a key to saving many more Australian lives. LivingWorks Australia CEO Shayne Connell said the Commission’s call for structural changes to the delivery of suicide intervention deserved widespread acceptance by the sector. “We echo the call for a whole-of-government approach to suicide prevention across different levels of government and portfolios,” Mr Connell said. “We continue to work with primary health networks supporting communities, priority populations, first responders, workplaces, financial touchpoints, veterans , health staff and in schools.”

Mental Health Australia has today welcomed the release of the Final Report from the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Mental Health, and the interim report from the National Suicide Prevention Adviser, and sees the government response to these reports as a crucial next step in the future of mental health reform and service delivery in Australia. Mental Health Australia CEO Dr Leanne Beagley said the Final Report from the Productivity Commission is a culmination of nearly two years of extensive consultation and consideration, and could not come at a more important and critical time. “Today’s release of the Final Report from the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Mental Health is a moment many of us have been waiting for. This is not just a vital report for our mental health sector, but for every Australian,” said Dr Beagley.

To access the Productivity Commission’s report click here, and click on the following organisation names to view their media releases: Beyond Blue, LivingWorks, Mental Health Australia, Carers Australia,     

COVID-19 sparks plague of health care ideas

Australians’ experience with COVID-19 has stimulated more active consumer and community involvement in health care decision-making, the Consumer Health Forum (CHF) says.

Authors writing in CHF’s ejournal, Health Voices, have reported on a range of developments spurred by COVID where consumers are having an influence. A standout has been Health Consumers Queensland which during COVID has formed working links with the State’s Health Department to develop consumer-effective policies, promoting online engagement with consumers to alert government on a range of areas including delayed access to health care, advice on testing and face masks.

The CEO of CHF, Leanne Wells, said a feature of the many of the 20 articles in this edition was the diversity of ways in which COVID had generated changes in thinking and services to meet the crisis. “The rush of the authorities to respond in the early stages of COVID-19 meant the value of consumer and community knowledge was often overlooked,” Ms Wells said. “But what followed that initial response was a greater realisation of the importance of community and consumer input in shaping more thoughtful and effective ways to counter COVID.

To view the CHF’s media release click here.

gloved hand holding COVID-19 test with blood vial in background

Image source: Community Care website.

Joint Council on CTG meets

Yesterday the Joint Council on Closing the Gap (CTG) convened for the first time since the historic National Agreement on Closing the Gap came into effect on 27 July 2020 with a review of the parties collective responsibilities for the implementation of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

Patricia Turner AM, Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks and Joint Council Co-Chair said the meeting focussed on making sure strong partnerships are being established and strengthened to support the implementation of the National Agreement in each state and territory. Pat Turner said “The National Agreement commits governments to a new way of working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, based on negotiation and shared decision-making, to address the inequality too many of our people still face.”

Consistent with the National Agreement, funding will initially be invested in the early childhood care and development, housing, health and disability sectors, with the Joint Council on CTG agreeing yesterday to investment in community-controlled early childhood and housing.

To view the Joint Council on CTG communique click here and read the NACCHO and Coalition of Peaks joint media release click here.tiles: Housing to Close the Gap! and Looking after our kids to Close the Gap with cartoon characters of two carpenters and two children with building blocks

WHO strategy to eliminate cervical cancer

Cervical cancer is one cancer the world can actually eliminate: it’s time to do it. The world already has the necessary tools; they just need to be made accessible. Following a Call to Action in May 2018 from the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Dr Tedros, 194 countries collectively resolved to end needless suffering from a cancer that is both preventable and curable.

In August 2020, the World Health Assembly passed a resolution calling for the elimination of cervical cancer and adopting a strategy to make it happen. It is a testament to the enthusiasm for this important goal that, even in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, countries around the world have affirmed their support for this important priority. On 17 November, following the close of the 73rd World Health Assembly, WHO officially launched its cervical cancer elimination strategy.

While elimination is possible, we still need concerted efforts to address persistent inequities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. Compared to non-Indigenous women, Indigenous women are 2.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer and are 3.8 times more likely to die of cervical cancer.

To view further details about the launch of the WHO’s Global Strategy to Accelerate the Elimination of Cervical click here.

vector image of microscope over female reproductive organs

Image source: MedPage Today website.

Kamilaroi woman wins highest honour

A world-leading researcher and advocate for Indigenous health was among the University of Newcastle the 2020 University of Newcastle Alumni Excellence recipients. The Awards recognise innovation, creativity, and the exceptional leadership of alumni who have inspired others through their local, national and international achievements.

Professor Gail Garvey was awarded the Alumni Medal for Professional Excellence, the highest honour of the University of Newcastle’s Alumni Awards. A proud Kamilaroi woman, Professor Garvey is Senior Principal Research Fellow at the Menzies School of Health and Deputy Division Leader for the Wellbeing and Preventable Chronic Diseases Division.

Professor Garvey’s research career has focused on investigating cancer experiences and outcomes of Indigenous Australians. She has publicly advocated for better prevention and treatment of cancer in remote areas in Australia. Her work in cancer has illuminated critical shortcomings in health system performance for Indigenous Australians affected by cancer and has identified pathways to improve equity of access and outcomes.

To view the University of Newcastle’s article click here.

portrait image of Professor Gail Garvey

Professor Gail Garvey. Image source: Charles Darwin University Australia website.

Be You mental health education program extended

Be You – the national mental health in education initiative – will continue for two more years. Developed by Beyond Blue and delivered in partnership with Early Childhood Australia (ECA) and headspace, Be You provides every Australian educator with free online training, practical resources and guidance so they can confidently support the mental health of children and young people and look after their own mental health and wellbeing. In addition, early learning services and schools are supported by expert staff to implement and tailor Be You to match the specific needs of their learning community. Almost 11,000 schools and early learning services have adopted Be You since its launch in November 2018 – 70% of all Australian schools and a quarter of all early learning services. Educators have turned to Be You in record numbers in 2020.

ECA has welcomed this extension of Be You for another two years.  General Manager of the ECA Be You initiative, Judy Kynaston says ‘the extension will allow Be You to increase the number of participating early learning services and develop the capacity of educators to build foundations of lifelong mental health and wellbeing in children and young people.’

To view the Beyond Blue media release click here and ECA’s media release click here.be you and Beyond Blue logos

Australian Institute of Infectious Disease to be established

An Australian Institute for Infectious Disease in the heart of Melbourne’s renowned Parkville biomedical precinct to lead the fight against future pandemics. “The Victorian Budget 2020/21 will include an investment of $155 million towards the $550 million institute, with the University of Melbourne and its partners contributing a further $150 million and the remaining funds to be sought from the Commonwealth Government. Our contribution includes an immediate allocation of $5 million to complete a business case for the facility, which will combine the strengths of some of the world’s leading research institutes. The business case is due for completion in mid-2021 and construction of the Institute would create 350 jobs. Once operational, the Institute will provide a massive boost to the biomedical sector and could support up to 5,000 jobs, including up to 850 jobs at the Institute itself.”

The Victorian Chapter of the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes (VicAAMRI) applauds Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ announcement today of a $155 million investment to establish the new Australian Institutes for Infectious Diseases and Global Health. This significant investment will build on Victoria’s place as a world leader in medical research, while creating new high-skilled jobs and economic opportunities for Victorians. “The Victorian Government has a long history of investing in medical research, and that support is a key reason that our medical research sector is the world leader that it is today,” said Professor Brendan Crabb AC, Chair of VicAAMRI and Director and CEO of the Burnet Institute.

To view the Victorian Government’s media release click here. and to view VicAAMRI’s media release click here.

two gowned masked researchers in a laboratory one looking through a microscope

Image source: Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.

Little support for GP role in mental health care

A proposal to scrap GP mental health treatment plans and replace them with an online assessment tool would undermine the holistic approach needed to care for patients with mental health concerns, according to AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid. The proposal is among the recommendations of the Productivity Commission’s long-awaited Mental Health Inquiry Report, which calls for a $2.6 billion overhaul of the system, estimating the total cost of poor mental health and suicide to be as much as $70 billion per year.

Dr Khorshid said the report recognises the crucial role that GPs play in delivering frontline mental health care, but then delivers proposals that result in diminished support for this role. “The AMA welcomes the report’s aspirations for a person-centred mental health care system, focusing on prevention and early help – both early in life and early in illness,” Dr Khorshid said. “But we cannot accept recommendations that take away support for GPs at a time when the burden of mental illness is growing.

“The report highlights the fact that GPs are the first port of call for Australians seeking mental health support, with one in five Australians having a mental health consultation with their GP every year, and a satisfaction rate of more than 80 per cent. “Yet it offers little in the way of extra support, other than the introduction of a Medicare item for GPs to get advice from a psychiatrist about a patient in their care. While this is sensible policy that recognises the expertise of psychiatrists and encourages collaboration, it falls short of the support GPs need.

“The report also proposes abolishing Medicare-funded GP mental health treatment plans, which are fundamental to providing well-coordinated care and engaging with a patient about their care needs.

To view the AMA’s media release click here.black and white image of a head bowed

Youth sexual health status revealed

The results are in for the latest Australia-wide sexual health survey of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The GOANNA Survey was led by SAHMRI researchers in partnership with Aboriginal community organizations and included more than 1,300 participants aged 16-29 from urban, regional and remote parts of mainland Australia. The survey focused on relationships, sexual behaviours, use of health services and knowledge about sexually transmissible infections (STIs), HIV and hepatitis C.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research leader, Professor James Ward of the University of Queensland (formerly of SAHMRI) led the GOANNA survey for the second time. Professor Ward said rates of STIs, including chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis as well as HIV and hepatitis C, remain unacceptably high in many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, particularly in remote Australia. “These survey findings provide a snapshot on a range of factors that might contribute to risk for these infections” Professor Ward said.

To view the full article click here.

the Pill, the morning after pill, a condom, diaphram & IUD on blue surface

Image source: Medical Xpress.

Professor Kong receives prestigious award

Australia’s first Aboriginal surgeon, the highly acclaimed ear, nose and throat surgeon, Associate Professor Kelvin Kong has been awarded the prestigious Menzies Medallion. The medal recognises Associate Professor Kong’s leadership in Aboriginal health service delivery, advocacy and research, in particular his work to improve ear health in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. The Menzies Medallion is the highest award offered by Menzies School of Health Research, one of Australia’s leading medical research institutes dedicated to improving Indigenous, global and tropical health.

A proud Worimi man from Port Stephens, the breadth and depth of Associate Professor Kong’s work is far reaching and includes his role as chief investigator for the Menzies-led Centre for Research Excellence in Ear and Hearing Health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children. Currently practising in Newcastle as a surgeon, he specialises in paediatric and adult otolaryngology, head and neck surgery (ear, nose and throat surgery), and lectures in allied health at the University.

To view the full article click here.

Professor Kelvin Kong receiving Menzies Medallion

Professor Kelvin Kong with Menzies Medallion. Image source: The University of Newcastle website.

Woorabinda optical care funding in doubt

For years Gunggari woman and Woorabinda resident Florence Brown saw the world as if she were looking through a foggy window. But her vision is now clearer and brighter after free cataract surgery. “Everything’s changed for me,” Ms Brown said. “Hopefully I won’t suffer anymore after this.”

Ms Brown is one of 40 people from across central Queensland who have undergone eye surgery through Queensland-based charity Doctors for All, which has been servicing the area over the last year. But there are fears for the program’s future as funding dries up.

To view the full article click here.

image of Florence Brown with eye patch sitting in passenger side of a car with red Aboriginal dot patterned shirt

Florence Brown. Image source: ABC News website.

Australia-wide remote locations – Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)

2021 Census Operations Manager (Remote) Locations x 50

50 Census operations roles are available now across Australia for the 2021 Census. Census Operation teams will help ensure people in regional and remote areas in NSW, NT, SA, Queensland and WA are counted in the Census. Census Operations teams will be responsible for collecting Census data from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and people living or working away from home. This includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and people living in regional and remote areas such as pastoralists.

In this role, they won’t just be helping the Census to collect and make statistics. They will be helping to inform how Census data contributes to service delivery for your community. For example, Census data is used to understand housing needs and priorities to plan affordable and culturally appropriate community housing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Census data also helps organisations, like the Bodhi Bus, provide affordable transport to remote communities allowing people to connect with family or local health clinics. The Wheatbelt Business Network uses Census data to help guide how they support women in rural business. These services help develop enterprise, support towns and contribute to the economic growth of the region.

To view the Census Operations Manager recruitment brochure click here; to view the list of remote locations click here and to access the applicant information kits and to apply click here.

Applications close Friday 27 November 2020.become an ABC Census Operations Manager Help tell your community's story 10-month contract $53.21 phr

NACCHO Aboriginal Health Research Alert : @HealthInfoNet releases Summary of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health status 2019 social and cultural determinants, chronic conditions, health behaviours, environmental health , alcohol and other drugs

The Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet has released the Summary of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health status 2019

This new plain language publication provides information for a wider (non-academic) audience and incorporates many visual elements.

The Summary is useful for health workers and those studying in the field as a quick source of general information. It provides key information regarding the health status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the following topics:

  • social and cultural determinants
  • chronic conditions
  • health behaviours
  • environmental health
  • alcohol and other drugs.

The Summary is based on HealthInfoNet‘s comprehensive publication Overview of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health status 2019. It presents statistical information from the Overview in a visual format that is quick and easy for users to digest.

The Summary is available online and in hardcopy format. Please contact HealthInfoNet by email if you wish to order a hardcopy of this Summary. Other reviews and plain language summaries are available here.

Here are the key facts

Please note in an earlier version sent out 7.00 am June 15 a computer error dropped off the last word in many sentences : these are new fixed 

Key facts

Population

  • In 2019, the estimated Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population was 847,190.
  • In 2019, NSW had the highest number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (the estimated population was 281,107 people, 33% of the total Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population).
  • In 2019, NT had the highest proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in its population, with 32% of the NT population identifying as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders
  • In 2016, around 37% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people lived in major cities
  • The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is much younger than the non-Indigenous population.

Births and pregnancy outcomes

  • In 2018, there were 21,928 births registered in Australia with one or both parents identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander (7% of all births registered).
  • In 2018, the median age for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers was 26.0 years.
  • In 2018, total fertility rates were 2,371 births per 1,000 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.
  • In 2017, the average birthweight of babies born to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers was 3,202 grams
  • The proportion of low birthweight babies born to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers between 2007 and 2017 remained steady at around 13%.

Mortality

  • For 2018, the age-standardised death rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in NSW, Qld, WA, SA and the NT was 1 per 1,000.
  • Between 1998 and 2015, there was a 15% reduction in the death rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in NSW, Qld, WA, SA and the NT.
  • For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people born 2015-2017, life expectancy was estimated to be 6 years for males and 75.6 years for females, around 8-9 years less than the estimates for non-Indigenous males and females.
  • In 2018, the median age at death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in NSW, Qld, WA, SA and the NT was 2 years; this was an increase from 55.8 years in 2008.
  • Between 1998 and 2015, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander infant mortality rate has more than halved (from 5 to 6.3 per 1,000).
  • In 2018, the leading causes of death among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in NSW, Qld, WA, SA and the NT were ischaemic heart disease (IHD), diabetes, chronic lower respiratory diseases and lung and related cancers.
  • For 2012-2017 the maternal mortality ratio for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women was 27 deaths per 100,000 women who gave birth.
  • For 1998-2015, in NSW, Qld, WA, SA and the NT there was a 32% decline in the death rate from avoidable causes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 0-74 years

Hospitalisation

  • In 2017-18, 9% of all hospital separations were for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • In 2017-18, the age-adjusted separation rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was 2.6 times higher than for non-Indigenous people.
  • In 2017-18, the main cause of hospitalisation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was for ‘factors influencing health status and contact with health services’ (mostly for care involving dialysis), responsible for 49% of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander seperations.
  • In 2017-18, the age-standardised rate of overall potentially preventable hospitalisations for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was 80 per 1,000 (38 per 1,000 for chronic conditions and 13 per 1,000 for vaccine-preventable conditions).

Selected health conditions

Cardiovascular health

  • In 2018-19, around 15% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people reported having cardiovascular disease (CVD).
  • In 2018-19, nearly one quarter (23%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults were found to have high blood pressure.
  • For 2013-2017, in Qld, WA, SA and the NT combined, there were 1,043 new rheumatic heart disease diagnoses among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, a crude rate of 50 per 100,000.
  • In 2017-18, there 14,945 hospital separations for CVD among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, representing 5.4% of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander hospital separations (excluding dialysis).
  • In 2018, ischaemic heart disease (IHD) was the leading specific cause of death of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in NSW, Qld, WA, SA and the NT

Cancer

  • In 2018-19, 1% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people reported having cancer (males 1.2%, females 1.1%).
  • For 2010-2014, the most common cancers diagnosed among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in NSW, Vic, Qld, WA and the NT were lung cancer and breast (females) cancer.
  • Survival rates indicate that of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in NSW, Vic, Qld, WA, and the NT who were diagnosed with cancer between 2007 and 2014, 50% had a chance of surviving five years after diagnosis
  • In 2016-17, there 8,447 hospital separations for neoplasms2 among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • For 2013-2017, the age-standardised mortality rate due to cancer of any type was 238 per 100,000, an increase of 5% when compared with a rate of 227 per 100,000 in 2010-2014.

Diabetes

  • In 2018-19, 8% of Aboriginal people and 7.9% of Torres Strait Islander people reported having diabetes.
  • In 2015-16, there were around 2,300 hospitalisations with a principal diagnosis of type 2 diabetes among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • In 2018, diabetes was the second leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • The death rate for diabetes decreased by 0% between 2009-2013 and 2014-2018.
  • Some data sources use term ‘neoplasm’ to describe conditions associated with abnormal growth of new tissue, commonly referred to as a Neoplasms can be benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous) [1].

Social and emotional wellbeing

  • In 2018-19, 31% of Aboriginal and 23% of Torres Strait Islander respondents aged 18 years and over reported high or very high levels of psychological distress
  • In 2014-15, 68% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over and 67% of children aged 4-14 years experienced at least one significant stressor in the previous 12 months
  • In 2012-13, 91% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people reported on feelings of calmness and peacefulness, happiness, fullness of life and energy either some, most, or all of the time.
  • In 2014-15, more than half of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over reported an overall life satisfaction rating of at least 8 out of 10.
  • In 2018-19, 25% of Aboriginal and 17% of Torres Strait Islander people, aged two years and over, reported having a mental and/or behavioural conditions
  • In 2018-19, anxiety was the most common mental or behavioural condition reported (17%), followed by depression (13%).
  • In 2017-18, there were 21,940 hospital separations with a principal diagnosis of International Classification of Diseases (ICD) ‘mental and behavioural disorders’ identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander
  • In 2018, 169 (129 males and 40 females) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in NSW, Qld, WA, SA, and the NT died from intentional self-harm (suicide).
  • Between 2009-2013 and 2014-2018, the NT was the only jurisdiction to record a decrease in intentional self-harm (suicide) death rates.

Kidney health

  • In 2018-19, 8% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (Aboriginal people 1.9%; Torres Strait Islander people 0.4%) reported kidney disease as a long-term health condition.
  • For 2014-2018, after age-adjustment, the notification rate of end-stage renal disease was 3 times higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people than for non-Indigenous people.
  • In 2017-18, ‘care involving dialysis’ was the most common reason for hospitalisation among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • In 2018, 310 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people commenced dialysis and 49 were the recipients of new kidneys.
  • For 2013-2017, the age-adjusted death rate from kidney disease was 21 per 100,000 (NT: 47 per 100,000; WA: 38 per 100,000) for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in NSW, Qld, WA, SA and NT
  • In 2018, the most common causes of death among the 217 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were receiving dialysis was CVD (64 deaths) and withdrawal from treatment (51 deaths).

Injury, including family violence

  • In 2012-13, 5% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people reported having a long-term condition caused by injury.
  • In 2018-19, 16% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over had experienced physical harm or threatened physical harm at least once in the last 12 months.
  • In 2016-17, the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander hospitalised injury was higher for males (44 per 1,000) than females (39 per 1,000).
  • In 2017-18, 20% of injury-related hospitalisations among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were for assault.
  • In 2018, intentional self-harm was the leading specific cause of injury deaths for NSW, Qld, SA, WA, and NT (5.3% of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths).

Respiratory health

  • In 2018-19, 29% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people reported having a long-term respiratory condition .
  • In 2018-19, 16% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people reported having asthma.
  • In 2014-15, crude hospitalisation rates were highest for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people presenting with influenza and pneumonia (7.4 per 1,000), followed by COPD (5.3 per 1,000), acute upper respiratory infections (3.8 per 1,000) and asthma (2.9 per 1,000).
  • In 2018, chronic lower respiratory disease was the third highest cause of death overall for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in NSW, Qld, WA, SA and the NT

Eye health

  • In 2018-19, eye and sight problems were reported by 38% of Aboriginal people and 40% of Torres Strait Islander people.
  • In 2018-19, eye and sight problems were reported by 32% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males and by 43% of females.
  • In 2018-19, the most common eye conditions reported by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were hyperopia (long sightedness: 22%), myopia (short sightedness: 16%), other diseases of the eye and adnexa (8.7%), cataract (1.4%), blindness (0.9%) and glaucoma (0.5%).
  • In 2014-15, 13% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, aged 4-14 years, were reported to have eye or sight problems.
  • In 2018, 144 cases of trachoma were detected among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children living in at-risk communities in Qld, WA, SA and the NT
  • For 2015-17, 62% of hospitalisations for diseases of the eye (8,274) among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were for disorders of the lens (5,092) (mainly cataracts).

Ear health and hearing

  • In 2018-19, 14% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people reported having a long-term ear and/or hearing problem
  • In 2018-19, among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0-14 years, the prevalence of otitis media (OM) was 6% and of partial or complete deafness was 3.8%.
  • In 2017-18, the age-adjusted hospitalisation rate for ear conditions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was 1 per 1,000 population.

Oral health

  • In 2014-15, the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 4-14 years with reported tooth or gum problems was 34%, a decrease from 39% in 2008.
  • In 2012-2014, 61% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 5-10 years had experienced tooth decay in their baby teeth, and 36% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 6-14 years had experienced tooth decay in their permanent teeth.
  • In 2016-17, there were 3,418 potentially preventable hospitalisations for dental conditions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander The age-standardised rate of hospitalisation was 4.6 per 1,000.

Disability

  • In 2018-19, 27% of Aboriginal and 24% of Torres Strait Islander people reported having a disability or restrictive long-term health
  • In 2018-19, 2% of Aboriginal and 8.3% of Torres Strait Islander people reported a profound or severe core activity limitation.
  • In 2016, 7% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with a profound or severe disability reported a need for assistance.
  • In 2017-18, 9% of disability service users were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with most aged under 50 years (82%).
  • In 2017-18, the primary disability groups accessing services were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with a psychiatric condition (24%), intellectual disability (23%) and physical disability (20%).
  • In 2017-18, 2,524 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander National Disability Agreement service users transitioned to the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Communicable diseases

  • In 2017, there were 7,015 notifications for chlamydia for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, accounting for 7% of the notifications in Australia
  • During 2013-2017, there was a 9% and 9.8% decline in chlamydia notification rates among males and females (respectively).
  • In 2017, there were 4,119 gonorrhoea notifications for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, accounting for 15% of the notifications in Australia.
  • In 2017, there were 779 syphilis notifications for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people accounting for 18% of the notifications in Australia.
  • In 2017, Qld (45%) and the NT (35%) accounted for 80% of the syphilis notifications from all jurisdictions.
  • In 2018, there were 34 cases of newly diagnosed human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia .
  • In 2017, there were 1,201 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people diagnosed with hepatitis C (HCV) in Australia
  • In 2017, there were 151 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people diagnosed with hepatitis B (HBV) in Australia
  • For 2013-2017 there was a 37% decline in the HBV notification rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • For 2011-2015, 1,152 (14%) of the 8,316 cases of invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) were identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait people .
  • For 2011-2015, there were 26 deaths attributed to IPD with 11 of the 26 deaths (42%) in the 50 years and over age-group.
  • For 2011-2015, 101 (10%) of the 966 notified cases of meningococcal disease were identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • For 2006-2015, the incidence rate of meningococcal serogroup B was 8 per 100,000, with the age- specific rate highest in infants less than 12 months of age (33 per 100,000).
  • In 2015, of the 1,255 notifications of TB in Australia, 27 (2.2%) were identified as Aboriginal and seven (0.6%) as Torres Strait Islander people
  • For 2011-2015, there were 16 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people diagnosed with invasive Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) in Australia
  • Between 2007-2010 and 2011-2015 notification rates for Hib decreased by around 67%.
  • In 2018-19, the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people reporting a disease of the skin and subcutaneous tissue was 2% (males 2.4% and females 4.0%).

NACCHO Aboriginal #SexualHealth @atsihaw Resources and Events : Plus Dawn Casey ” NACCHO recognises the importance of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander #HIVAwarenessWeek #WorldAIDSDay2019 “


“Exposure to STIs differs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Our women are diagnosed with HIV, STIs and BBVs at a greater rate than other Australian women and are facing infertility, ectopic pregnancy, spontaneous preterm birth or still-birth.

NACCHO believes this requires greater recognition and commitment from all levels of government to work collaboratively across portfolios and mainstream organisations.

A good example is the current partnership between the Commonwealth Department of Health and NACCHO to address the syphilis outbreak, which has been extraordinary!

It highlights innovation in science and the great work done on the ground by Aboriginal health workers.

There is no better way to provide healthcare than through the 145 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs), who deliver holistic, culturally safe, comprehensive primary healthcare across Australia, including those living in very remote areas

Studies have shown that ACCHOs are 23% better at attracting and retaining Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients than mainstream providers. 

If funded adequately ACCHOs are the solution to addressing the increasing rates of STIs, BBVs and HIV/AIDS.”

Dr Dawn Casey, Deputy CEO of NACCHO who spoke at the 2019 parliamentary World AIDS Day breakfast this week. See continued NACCHO Press Release Part 1 and speech notes part 2 Below 

“ATSIHAW has grown bigger, with 132 ATSIHAW events to be held by 73 organisations across Australia this year – mostly in ACCHOs. ACCHOs have embraced ATSIHAW wholeheartedly and this has been key to ATSIHAW’s success.

Community engagement has been pivotal to the improvements in Australia’s HIV response and it’s time to focus on getting HIV rates down in our communities.”

South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) Head, Aboriginal Health Equity—Sexual Health and Wellbeing, A/Prof James Ward

Download the 30 Page PDF Report 

2019-SAHMRI-ATSIHAW-booklet

ATSIHAW 2019 dates are November 28 to December 5

View the ATSIHAW 2019 registered events on Facebook or below by state.

NSW | QLD | SA | VIC | WA | ACT | NT | TAS

See Web Page

Part 1 NACCHO Press Release continued 

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) recognises the importance of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HIV Awareness Week (ATSIHAW) and the 2019 World AIDs Day to draw attention to the increasing impact of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

In Australia, it has been recorded that the cases of new HIV diagnoses amongst Australians represent a decline of 23% in the last five years.

However, the HIV notification rates within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population in 2018 was more than twice the rate for the Australian-born non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Source: Kirby Institute

Australia is perceived on the global stage as a world leader in HIV prevention and treatment.

But considering the high prevalence of this issue in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, NACCHO understands there is still some way to go.

Part 2 Dawn Casey Speaking Notes

World AIDS Day Parliamentary Breakfast – 27 November 2019

Traditional Owners of this land, the Ngunnawal and Ngambri People. I like to acknowledge other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the room.

I would like to thank AFAO for inviting me here to speak this morning.

I would like to acknowledge the Hon Greg Hunt, Minister for Health, the Hon Chris Bowen, Shadow Minister for Health and all the Members of Parliament present here. It is just fabulous to see a bipartisan approach taken to this issue.

Exposure to STIs, HIV and BBVs differs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Research tells us that it is more likely attributed to heterosexual sex and injection drug use coming into our communities. And we know that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are diagnosed with HIV, STIs and BBVs at a greater rate than other Australian women.

This is extremely concerning as the next generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women living in remote communities are facing infertility, ectopic pregnancy, spontaneous preterm birth or still-birth.

Let me remind you that there is no better way to provide healthcare than through Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs). They have been around here for many years and are established and operated by local communities, through locally elected Boards of Management, to deliver holistic and culturally safe and comprehensive primary healthcare.

They punch above their weight, with 145 services nationally providing about three million episodes of care each year for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia, including those living in very remote areas.

ACCHOs provide culturally safe, comprehensive primary health care consistent with our people’s needs, this includes: home and site visits; provision of medical, public health and health promotion services; allied health, nursing services; assistance with making appointments and transport coordination; help to access child care or to deal with the justice system and drug and alcohol services.

Our people trust us with their health. Studies have shown that ACCHOs are 23% better at attracting and retaining Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients than mainstream providers.

If funded adequately ACCHOs are the solutions to addressing the increasing rates of STIs, BBVs and HIV/AIDS. The current partnership between the Department of Health to address the syphilis outbreak has been extraordinary! It highlights innovation in science and the great work done on the ground by Aboriginal health workers.

I would like to leave with one message:

It is only with everyone working together that we will be able to help minimise the impact of STIs, BBVs and HIV/AIDS in the community. Mainstream organisations need to do their part and collaborate and work collectively with us.

Nationally, there is a high-quality network of Aboriginal controlled service providers that get results – understand them, connect with them and identify mutually beneficial areas to work together

Picture above Tim Wilson MP and his quote : At Parliament today, we gathered to remember & honour those lost to HIV/AIDS, redouble our efforts to stop new transmissions and stigma + mark tomorrow’s start of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HIV Awareness Week.

Find out more here: atsihiv.org.au

Part 3 Health Minister Greg Hunt Press Release 

World AIDS Day is held on 1 December each year. It raises awareness across the world and in the community about HIV and AIDS.

It is a day for people to show their support for people living with HIV and to remember and honour those who we have lost.

In the 2019–20 Budget, the Morrison Government invested $45.4 million to implement Australia’s five National Blood-Borne Viruses (BBV) and Sexually Transmissible Infections (STI) Strategies.

These strategies will make a deep and profound difference in reducing the health impacts and stigma of BBV and STI, including HIV.

Today, I am pleased to announce that our Government will provide additional, ongoing support for people with HIV and other BBV and STI’s by extending funding to six national peak organisations, providing almost $3 million for 2020-21.

In addition, from 1 December 2019, Australians living with HIV will save more than $8,500 a year with the listing of a new combination medicine on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

It is estimated that 850 Australians with HIV will benefit from the listing of Dovato® (dolutegravir with lamivudine) on the PBS, which will provide more choice for them in how they can manage their HIV.

Effective once daily treatments such as Dovato and other new medicines can control the virus so that people living with HIV can enjoy long, healthy and productive lives.

With the PBS subsidy, people living with HIV will pay just $40.30 per script, or $6.50 with a concession card for Dovato®.

Australia continues to be a world leader in the response to HIV. The number of new HIV diagnoses today is at its lowest in nearly 20 years.

Our success is built on a model of partnership between government, people living with HIV, community based organisations, health professionals and researchers.

We are seeing more people tested for HIV and initiating treatment for HIV. There are also more people living with a suppressed viral load. In addition, improved access to HIV prevention methods, including the PBS-listed pre exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), helps reduce the number of new HIV diagnoses.

We are also looking to address stigma and discrimination.

The Eighth National HIV Strategy 2018-22, guides our partnership approach over the next four years to virtual elimination of HIV transmission by 2022.

We aim to be one of the first countries in the world to eliminate new HIV transmissions.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health @IndigenousPHAA #Prevention : Download @_PHAA_ Report : Saving lives a million at a time: Australia’s #top10publichealth successes over the last 20 years

As we edge closer to the federal election, it’s critical our parties consider what public health successes we must achieve next, and how they can lead on issues such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, obesity, nutrition, environmental and ecological issues such as climate change, and advancing health equity.”

PHAA CEO Terry Slevin

Today the Public Health Association Australia (PHAA) launched its new report, the Top 10 Public Health Successes Over the Last 20 Years at Australian Parliament House.

PHAA CEO Terry Slevin stated, “Public health initiatives have prevented an extraordinary amount of ill health and death in our communities – there is a saying in our field that nurses and doctors save lives, and public health professionals also save lives – they just do so a million at a time.”

The report has been compiled by Australia’s leading public health experts, and the top ten achievements are presented in no particular order as they are all considered to have been of equal importance to Australian public health.

The top ten public health successes include:

  • Folate: reduced neural tube defects
  • Immunisation and eliminating infectious disease
  • Containing the spread of HPV and its related cancers
  • Oral health: reduced dental decay
  • Reduced incidence of skin cancer
  • Tobacco control: reduced deaths caused by smoking
  • Reduced the road death and injury toll
  • Gun control: reduced gun deaths in Australia
  • Contained the spread of HIV
  • Prevented deaths from bowel and breast cancer

Download the PHAA report HERE 

PHAA Top 10 Public Health Successes_FINAL

“This report paints a clear picture of exactly which programs and initiatives have had the greatest impact – from cancer screening to vaccines, from road safety to tobacco control. These have all saved thousands of lives and protected the health of millions of Australians.”

“Public health is about preventing or minimising harm – it is always better than cure. We aim to intervene before illness, death or injury occurs, creating safe and healthy environments for all Australians. This is why in public health, we’re for birthdays,” Mr Slevin said.

“We aspire to give Australians more birthdays (five more for each person is our starting goal) and other important celebrations – weddings, births, graduations – all of the significant milestones we value in life. Perhaps most importantly, we want Australians to be healthy enough to really enjoy these extra years and milestones,” Mr Slevin said.

“So the next question we ask is, who will be the policy leaders and decision makers to help us achieve this aspiration? The report acknowledges key decision makers at the federal, state and territory government levels who were instrumental in making the top ten public health successes happen.”

“As we edge closer to the federal election, it’s critical our parties consider what public health successes we must achieve next, and how they can lead on issues such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, obesity, nutrition, environmental and ecological issues such as climate change, and advancing health equity.”

The UK has just released a new preventive health vision statement proving that western conservative governments can prioritise prevention. This is key not just because it is the most effective form of public health practice, but also the most economically sound.

“Preventive public health measures are often cheap to implement and more than pay for themselves through reduced health care costs and increased productivity through keeping people out of hospitals.”

“Public health investment in Australia currently amounts to less than 2% of the national health budget, and has been generally declining since at least 2001. It is essential we allocate adequate resources to public health programs and initiatives to build a healthier population, stem the tide of chronic disease that is enveloping the nation, and reduce future health expenditure,” Mr Slevin said.

“We owe it to ourselves and to our children to look back in twenty years’ time and say we did all we could.”

NACCHO Aboriginal #Sexualhealth #WorldAidsDay #UANDMECANSTOPHIV Community embraces Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander 2017 #HIV Awareness Week

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 ” With diagnoses and rates of HIV in Aboriginal communities at an all-time high since 1992, this year’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HIV Awareness Week (ATSIHAW) is more important than ever. Now in its fourth year, the role of ATSIHAW is to engage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia in HIV prevention.

ATISHAW is an opportunity to promote action, awareness and advocacy at all levels of government and community, to provide much needed resources to address the rising rates of HIV,

Action is required in policy, programming, clinical service delivery; awareness is required across communities and in clinical settings; and advocacy is required at all levels of health service delivery and governments.”

Associate Professor James  Ward

Ajw

The theme of this year’s National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HIV Awareness Week is ‘U and Me Can Stop HIV’ and we know that education and awareness are vitally important in our battle against HIV and STIs,”

We have had a variety of media resources available but until now, only a small number have been culturally appropriate for Indigenous people.

With messages like ‘Looking after our mob starts with looking after ourselves’, these new videos are more likely to cut through, especially to younger Aboriginal people, who are most vulnerable to these infections.”.

Minister for Indigenous Health, Ken Wyatt AM, this week officially released the videos, and an accompanying range of social and print media resources, at the launch of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HIV Awareness Week.

Three animated education and awareness videos focus on HIV, STIs and PrEP (a daily medication that can prevent HIV), which aim to enhance awareness of HIV prevention. These are housed on the website  www.atsihiv.org.au,

Watch 1 of 3 Videos HERE

ATSIHAW 2017 runs from Monday, 27 November to Sunday, 3 December. The Federal Minister for Indigenous Health, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP, officially launched ATSIHAW on Wednesday, 29 November at a breakfast hosted by Senator Dean Smith, Chair of the Parliamentary Friends of HIV/AIDS, Blood Borne Viruses and Sexually Transmitted Diseases.

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Other dignitaries in attendance included : Senator Richard Di Natale, Leader of the Australian Greens; Professor Sharon Lewin, Chair of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Blood Borne Viruses and Sexually Transmissible Infections; Dr Dawn Casey, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO);

Ms Michelle Tobin, Chair of the Positive Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Network (PATSIN) – a group representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with HIV); as well as other members of the Australian Parliament.

Concerning statistics

Recently released national data shows the rate of HIV diagnoses among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is now more than double the rate for the non-Indigenous Australian-born population. This rate has increased by 33 per cent during the last five years, while the rate in the non-Indigenous Australian-born population has decreased by 22 per cent in the same period – creating a new gap in health between the two populations.

Associate Professor James Ward, Head Infectious Diseases Research Aboriginal Health at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), and ATSIHAW committee member, said that this is absolutely unacceptable.

Over the last five years, significant differences have appeared in the HIV epidemic between the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population and the non-Indigenous Australian-born population. Although men who have sex with men make up the majority of cases in both groups (51 per cent vs 74 per cent), a greater proportion of Indigenous cases are because of injecting drug use (14 per cent vs three per cent) or through heterosexual sex (20 per cent vs. 14 per cent).

Ms Michelle Tobin said that more work is required to ensure there are strategies for all of these groups of people in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities rolled out, and that these have impact.

The other unique issue occurring in Australia is the continuing increase in HIV rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people each year, despite the major advances in HIV testing, diagnostics and treatment. Innovative HIV test-and-treat strategies and large-scale pre-exposure HIV prophylaxis trials (PrEP) trials have successfully engaged the gay community and are resulting in reductions across jurisdictions, but but to date, have had little impact in Aboriginal communities.

“We need to make sure that these strategies have impact on all of the Australian population – not just some”, Associate Professor Ward added.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are generally not benefiting from these advances.”

Community support; an important part of ATSIHAW

The overarching theme of ATSIHAW is ‘U AND ME CAN STOP HIV’. This highlights the strengths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and the role we can all play in preventing new HIV cases and improving the outcomes for people living with HIV.

This year, ATSIHAW is holding over 55 community events across Australia at Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services and other community services. The number of ATSIHAW events and strong social media engagement, demonstrates the growing sense of community responsibility for spreading awareness of the importance of HIV prevention.

Alice Springs this week

High-profile ambassadors for ATSIHAW have also been recruited, including Steven Oliver from ABC’s Black Comedy. Steven said that he’s involved in ATSIHAW because he wants to help fight and break down the stigma associated with HIV and those living with it.

Professor Kerry Arabena and Dr Pat Anderson AM are also Ambassadors for ATSIHAW, alongside 30 other community members who are all concerned about HIV in the communities.

New HIV resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities

A new set of resources will be launched by the Honourable Ken Wyatt AM, MP, Minister for Indigenous Health, including three animated education and awareness videos focusing on HIV, STIs and PrEP (a daily medication that can prevent HIV), which aim to enhance awareness of HIV prevention. These are housed on the website www.atsihiv.org.au, als

New animated videos voiced by young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are the latest weapons in the fight again HIV and sexually transmitted infections in Indigenous communities.

Part 2 Minister’s Press release

Minister for Indigenous Health, Ken Wyatt AM, this week  officially released the videos, and an accompanying range of social and print media resources, at the launch of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HIV Awareness Week.

The videos have been developed specifically to counter the shame and stigma that can be associated with HIV.

“World Aids Day is on 1 December and it is important we take this opportunity to talk about the rates of HIV diagnosis in our Indigenous communities,” Minister Wyatt said.

“In the past 30, years Australia has made progress in reducing the rates of STIs, however, despite advances in testing and treatment we continue to see Indigenous STI and HIV diagnoses on the rise.”

In 2016, it was estimated that the HIV notification rate for Indigenous people was more than double the rate among non-Indigenous people, with a greater proportion of newly diagnosed HIV infection attributed to heterosexual contact and injecting drug use.

“Working together with Indigenous communities, the States, Territories and local health services, to counter these infections is a key Turnbull Government priority,” said Minister Wyatt.

“This includes $8 million to support a range of programs focussed on delivering culturally appropriate sexual health services, plus a further $8.8 million over three years to target priority areas including testing, education and awareness.

“We are also developing a long-term response to STIs and blood borne viruses in our Indigenous communities, with a proposed strategic approach and action plan due to be received by the Government in December.

“The ‘U and Me Can Stop HIV’ theme of this year’s National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HIV Awareness Week is a timely reminder of the need to work together to improve sexual health.”

ATSIHAW is administered by SAHMRI, with funding provided by the Commonwealth Department of Health

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health #HIV #ATSIHAW #WorldAIDSDay :Minister @KenWyattMP speech at launch ” Together, you and me can stop HIV “

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 ” High quality health care must be accessible and appropriate for the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We have to acknowledge that those with HIV may experience additional barriers in accessing health care which relate to stigma and shame.

Racism is one of the social and cultural determinants of health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Racism is part of a vicious circle that contributes to low levels of access to health services by Indigenous Australians and causes psychological distress.

I consider it a huge step forward to have racism recognised within the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Implementation Plan

Together we will build the capacity of the Indigenous community controlled health sector and make a real impact on the HIV rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care, The Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP spoke at Parliament House, Canberra, to launch National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HIV Awareness Week.

Photo above Ken Wyatt, NACCHO CEO Pat Turner, James Ward , Mark Saunders and Professor Gracelyn Smallwood 

PDF printable version of Together, you and me can stop HIV – PDF 270 KB

cyudul_uuaew1vo-copy

Good morning.

Before I begin I want to acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we meet the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples and pay my respects to Elders past, present and future. I also acknowledge other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples here this morning.

I want to thank the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HIV Awareness Week Organising Committee for inviting me to speak this morning. It’s good to be here with Minister Sussan Ley and Senator Dean Smith.

We are here today because HIV continues to be a serious health concern for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The rate of HIV among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is more than twice as high than it is for the Australian-born, non-Indigenous population, increasing to more than three times higher for those aged over 35 years. We know that access to HIV testing and treatment remains an issue for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for a wide range of reasons.

I welcome the Health Minister’s announcement this morning that $485,000 in funding will go to the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute to find out why our young Indigenous people are still at an increased risk of blood borne viruses and STIs.

High quality health care must be accessible and appropriate for the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We have to acknowledge that those with HIV may experience additional barriers in accessing health care which relate to stigma and shame.

Racism is one of the social and cultural determinants of health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Racism is part of a vicious circle that contributes to low levels of access to health services by Indigenous Australians and causes psychological distress. And it is this distress that can contribute to negative coping behaviours such as injecting drug use or just being too ashamed to talk about their health concerns, or ask to be tested for STIs, or access condoms and clean needles.

To make real progress, we need to work together and eliminate discriminatory and stigmatising behaviour wherever and whenever we see it. We must call it out.

We need to provide our people—young and old—with an environment where they can talk about important issues such as their health or sexuality. And they need to do this without the fear of losing the support of, or connection with, their community. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples also need to feel culturally safe in the mainstream health system.

I am proud of our close relationship with, and continued support for, community controlled health services, their peak bodies in every state and territory and the National Community Controlled Health Organisation. Aboriginal community controlled health services deliver holistic, culturally competent and safe primary health care and is a model for all health services as they strive to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

An appropriately trained health workforce helps build the cultural competence of mainstream primary health care services. It also supports the ongoing viability of Indigenous specific health services, particularly those delivered through Aboriginal community controlled health services.

To improve access to culturally safe, high quality health care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the Government continues to invest in the Aboriginal community controlled sector.

In 2015-16, the Government provided funding to three additional community controlled health services to deliver comprehensive primary health care:

    • Moorundi Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service in SA—a newly established service.
    • Tamworth Aboriginal Medical Service in NSW, now an independent organisation.
    • And the Werin Aboriginal Corporation Medical Centre in NSW, also now an independent organisation.

The Implementation Plan for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013-2023, was released last year. This important Plan guides our strategies, actions and deliverables to maximise health benefits for Indigenous Australians.

I consider it a huge step forward to have racism recognised within the Implementation Plan. This is the critical issue that must be addressed to improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. And this is why Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture is at the centre of the Implementation Plan.

I see the theme of this event, ‘Together, You and Me Can Stop HIV’ as a call to action. Working in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is critical to addressing poor health outcomes of Indigenous Australians. It is only through working together as true partners— the fundamental and guiding principle—of the Implementation Plan that we will achieve success.

Already we are seeing real progress against the deliverables in the Implementation Plan. The next stage of the Plan is to address health system effectiveness and the social and cultural determinants of health such as racial discrimination.

This Plan will also increase engagement and involvement with other Australian Government agencies, state, territory and local governments, the Aboriginal community controlled sector, the non-government sector and the corporate/private sector. This broader engagement base will provide the mechanism for significant improvements in Indigenous health outcomes, including the reduction of sexually transmissible infections and blood-borne viruses such as HIV.

Finally, to reiterate comments made by the Prime Minister, it is critical that the Government continues its policy of doing things with, and not to, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

I am confident that by working with all our partners in developing and implementing actions, we will Close the Gap in health outcomes for Indigenous Australians because Closing the Gap is everybody’s business.

I recognise there is a lot of work to be done, but we must all recognise that respect of diversity and respect of cultures must be embedded into the way that all services are run. This is fundamental to improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Together we will build the capacity of the Indigenous community controlled health sector and make a real impact on the HIV rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

NACCHO Aboriginal #SexyHealth #ATSIHAW : Minister @KenWyattMP launches Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander #HIV Awareness Week

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We have to acknowledge that those with HIV in Indigenous communities may experience additional barriers to health care which relate to stigma, shame and racism. To make real progress and combat the spread of HIV we need to work together,

“We need to eliminate discriminatory and stigmatising behaviour wherever, and whenever, we see it so people can seek the treatment they need without the fear of negative consequences.”

Assistant Minister Ken Wyatt announcing funding of $485,000  at ATSIHAW launch with Pat Turner, James Ward , Mark Saunders pictured below

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Picture above NACCHO CEO Pat Turner launching the new website  http://www.atsihiv.org.au at Parliament House this Morning

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NACCHO Aboriginal #SexyHealth #ATSIHAW : Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander #HIV Awareness Week

Article from Page 12 and 13  NACCHO Aboriginal Health Newspaper out Wednesday 16 November , 24 Page lift out Koori Mail : or download

naccho-newspaper-nov-2016 PDF file size 9 MB

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Funding to conduct a survey to better understand why young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are at increased risk of blood borne viruses (BBV) and sexually transmissible infections (STI) was announced today.

The Minister for Health and Aged Care Sussan Ley, MP and the Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care Ken Wyatt AM, MP announced the funding at the launch of National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HIV Awareness Week.

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“While Australia has maintained one of the lowest HIV rates in the world it is still present and we need to do more,” Ms Ley said.

According to the Kirby Institute’s Annual Surveillance Report, the rate of HIV among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in 2015 is more than two times higher than the Australian-born, non-Indigenous population, with rates nearly three times higher for those aged over 35 years.

“While huge inroads have been made to prevent the spread of HIV, we need to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have timely access to scientific advances in treatment and diagnosis, as well as access to best practice management of HIV that is culturally safe,” Ms Ley said.

“This is why the Australian Government will provide funding of $485,000 to the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute to conduct a second GOANNA Survey to gain a better understanding of why our young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are at increased risk of STI.”

The Australian Government remains committed to providing better public health programs that are responsive to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through targeted initiatives including Closing the Gap, the Implementation Plan for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013-2023 and the BBV and STIs Strategy.

aids-video Watch video here

Or check out the new website http://www.atsihiv.org.au

website

 

NACCHO Aboriginal #SexyHealth #ATSIHAW : Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander #HIV Awareness Week

 

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 This year’s ATSIHAW is themed ‘You and me can stop HIV’ and the focus is on taking personal responsibility, and helping others, to end the spread of once-deadly disease.

ATSIHAW is designed to get people talking about HIV, to raise awareness of prevention methods, and testing and treatment options and to slow the rate of new infections to zero.

ATSIHAW leads into World AIDS Day on 1 st December 

These 4 article from Page 12 and 13  NACCHO Aboriginal Health Newspaper out Wednesday 16 November , 24 Page lift out Koori Mail : or download

naccho-newspaper-nov-2016 PDF file size 9 MB

” Since we started collecting HIV data among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the early 1990s rates of diagnosis have been similar or lower than for non-Indigenous people. It’s been one of the good news stories of Aboriginal health for over two decades. But is this all at risk?

Aboriginal people are at higher risk of HIV because of high rates of other STIs, because of increasing injecting drug use within communities including sharing of injection equipment between people, lower health literacy regarding HIV, less access to primary health care and HIV specialist services “

A/Prof James Ward South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute Adelaide : Dr David Johnson, Public Health Medical Officer, Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia :Dr Salenna Elliott, Public Health Registrar, Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia

 “Hepatitis C is a virus that affects the liver. It is thought that 95% of the Hep C in Australia is acquired through sharing of injecting equipment or other equipment that transfers blood from one person to another, such as for tattooing.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are overrepresented in hep C diagnoses in Australia, with an estimated 20,000-30,000 diagnoses in our population.  Without treatment hep C damages the liver, and can result in cancer and death. ”

A/Prof James Ward Head Infectious Diseases Research Aboriginal Health South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute :

See Article 4 below

Each year data are reported for all HIV diagnoses made in the previous year. This data are based on people reporting how they think they acquired HIV, e.g. via heterosexual sex, male-to-male sex, mother to child transmission, sharing injecting drug equipment. Data are also collected on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status.

Over the last five years a worrying trend has emerged: HIV rates are stabilising in the non-Indigenous Australian-born population, while rates are increasing for our population. The rate of HIV diagnosis among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is now for the first time ever more than double the non-Indigenous rate.

There are also important differences in how HIV is transmitted, with more cases among Aboriginal people attributed to heterosexual sex and injecting drug use.

In the past five years:

  • 21% of cases in the Aboriginal population were attributed to heterosexual sex, compared to 14% amongst non-Indigenous people
  • 16% of cases among Aboriginal people were attributed to injecting drug use compared to 3% of cases in the non-Indigenous population .
  • 58% of new cases in the Aboriginal population were attributed to anal sex between men, compared to 80% among non-Indigenous people

These rising rates and different transmission patterns are of concern. At the global level we have seen that HIV can escalate quickly once it takes hold in marginalised populations such as Indigenous peoples, people who inject drugs, sex workers and prisoners.

This has happened among Canada’s First Nations peoples and in Saskatchewan, clinicians and communities are calling for a state of emergency to be declared because of rapidly escalating HIV rates.  Factors that place our communities at risk of an HIV epidemic include the high prevalence  of other sexually transmissible infections (STIs) that increase risk of HIV transmission, limited access to sexual health services, education  and prevention programs (particularly in regional and remote communities) and

HIV-related stigma and shame. For us to turn about the clear divergence in HIV rates between our population and the non-Indigenous we must act now.

While community education and awareness, condoms and safe sex are still the mainstay of HIV prevention – as are clean needles and syringes, detox services and drug rehabilitation for people who inject drugs – the use of HIV treatment medications is also now a major component of prevention strategies. We need to understand these new prevention tools and work out how to ensure their benefits reach our communities.

Treatment as prevention – the game-changer

Advances in HIV treatment medications mean that it’s now possible for someone with HIV to live as long as the person next to them who doesn’t. Modern treatments also mean that the amount of HIV in the blood of a person with HIV can be reduced to an undetectable level.

This is not a cure, but a person with an undetectable viral load is virtually non-infectious. At a community wide level, the more people with HIV who reach an undetectable viral load the less chance there is for people to acquire HIV.  This is called ‘treatment as prevention’.

A drug to prevent HIV

There’s also now a pill that can protect against HIV. Called Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis or PrEP for short,  PrEP involves HIV-negative people taking an HIV treatment antiretroviral drug before risk exposure, for example before having sex, to protect against contracting HIV. PrEP is only recommended for people most at risk of HIV – including men who have anal sex with men, and HIV-negative men or women with an HIV-positive partner.

Don’t forget PEP

Post exposure prophylaxis is a tablet you take after a high risk exposure to HIV. PEP works by preventing HIV entering the lymph system- but only if it is given within 72 hours after the exposure. PEP is available at most hospital Emergency departments and at sexual health services nationally.

For us to turn around rising HIV rates among Aboriginal people we need:

  1. Enhanced community education and awareness about HIV and sexual health at both national and local level, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HIV Awareness Week which has just completed its third year of activities
  2. Continued promotion of safe sex and safe injecting, with improved community access to condoms, testing and treatment for STIs, Needle and syringe programs
  3. Capacity for referrals to appropriate drug treatment services
  4. Appropriate testing for HIV in Aboriginal primary care services for people at risk of HIV, including people who have a recent other STI diagnosis
  5. Enhanced early diagnosis and treatment rates, and education regarding the personal and community benefits of treatment as prevention.
  6. Community education on HIV, including on ‘treatment as prevention’, PrEP and to address HIV-related stigma and shame.

The cure for HIV is still a long way off, so we all need to do our bit to ensure HIV doesn’t take hold in our communities.

We acknowledge Ms Linda Forbes, of SAHMRI (proof read articles on Pages 12/13 ).

STI rates remain unacceptably high in our communitites

A/Prof James Ward Head Infectious Diseases and Sarah Betts STI Coordinator Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia

Rates of common sexually transmissible infections (STIs) among our communities remain grossly disproportionate to rates among non-Indigenous Australians.

In the policy and programming context, it could be said that in the scheme of things, persisting high rates of STIs are alarming but not requiring more urgent attention than other areas of Aboriginal health, such as diabetes, cardiovascular and child and maternal health-but should it be that way?

The failure to address high rates of STIs in has immediate and long-term implications for our communities. Poor outcomes in pregnancy, shame and stigma, interpersonal violence as an outcome of STI transmission, infertility and a much higher chance that HIV will be transmitted are just some of these. Those most affected are young people, and the more remote a young Aboriginal person’s community, the more likely they are to have not just one STI but multiple STIs. Young people in our remote communities face many challenges – let’s at least act to reduce the pervasive risk of STIs.

The main STIs

Let’s take a look at some of the most common infections:

  • Chlamydia is the most common STI in Australia, affecting both Aboriginal and non-Indigenous Australians, predominantly in the age group 15-25 years. Rates among Aboriginal people are between 3 and 5 times that of the non-Indigenous population, whether in cities, regional and remote areas. Chlamydia rarely has symptoms. It is easily tested for and treated with a one-off dose of antibiotics. If not detected and treated chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and other serious complications in women, including poor outcomes in pregnancy.
  • Gonorrhoeae and syphilis disproportionately affect young Aboriginal people, particularly in remote and isolated communities. Rates of gonorrhoeae are 30 times higher for the Aboriginal population compared to the non-Indigenous population; and syphilis rates are five times higher. An outbreak of syphilis that started in 2011 and has spread across northern and central Australian remote communities has us way out of reach of once was thought to be possible; eliminating syphilis from our communities. Both STIs can cause major issues in pregnancy, including loss of the baby, and babies can be born with both infections. Both conditions are relatively easy tested for and treated with antibiotics.
  • Trichomonas is another STI very prevalent among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. In remote communities we have found that around 25% of women found to have trichomonas. Untreated Trichomonas can cause premature birth and low birth weight and of course facilitate HIV transmission

Upping STI testing and treatment rates

So testing and treating STIs is straightforward if they’re diagnosed early, but the consequences of failing to detect and treat infections are huge. We need to understand what’s stopping people getting tested. Shame and stigma obviously play a part, including for young people – how can we get to the point that young people in our communities see sexual health checks as a normal part of living a healthy life?  How can we ensure that babies aren’t born with STIs?

The work happening at the individual health service and NACCHO affiliate level as well as in mainstream, is great. But we need to intensify our focus on:

  1. Developing innovative community education and awareness to make sure young people are aware of these STIs and the need to test
  2. Equipping young people with skills and tools to prevent STIs
  3. Ensuring we are all aware that STIs often don’t have symptoms but are easily tested for and cured
  4. Ensuring our health services are offering regular testing as per clinical guidelines
  5. Normalising STI testing, including by making sure that that STI testing is offered as part of Adult Health Assessments, particularly for young people between 16 and 29 years.
  6. At a broader systemic level I believe an additional two national KPIs would be beneficial for raising the profile of this issue, in addition to a special PIP for full STI and BBV testing and elevation of STI testing in the Adult health check.

We have been working hard in research, trying to make sense of why STIs are still so common and to develop strategies bring down these unacceptably high rates. But much more work is required. The recent defunding of 20 or so Aboriginal sexual health worker positions in NSW should not even have been.

Hyper-vigilance is needed. Let’s all get onto this together – our young people have the right to enjoy full and healthy sexual relationships with their loved ones now and into the future.

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Hepatitis B – improving access to vaccination, diagnosis and treatment

A/Prof Benjamin Cowie, Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Viral Hepatitis, Doherty Institute

Aboriginal people were among the first groups in who hepatitis B was discovered in the 1960s – which is why for a while the virus was known as ‘The Australia Antigen’.

The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with chronic (long-term) hep B is around 10 times that of non-Indigenous people born in Australia. Of the 230,000 Australians estimated to be living with hep B, around 20,000 are thought to be Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people, and new infections with hep B are still occurring at 4 times the rate in Indigenous Australians.

Most people living with chronic hep B were infected as babies or young children, with infection being passed from mother to child or between young children. Someone infected as a baby has a 90% chance of going on to chronic hep B; while someone infected as an adult only has a 5% chance of going on to long term infection, but can still get very sick in the short term. In Australia, most infections in adults are caused through sexual contact with someone with hep B, or through unsafe injecting drug use.

Chronic hep B infection usually causes no symptoms and for most people will cause no long-term health problems – but for around 1 in 4 people living with hep B, the virus can cause severe liver scarring (cirrhosis) or liver cancer. We know that liver diseases are one of the important causes of the life expectancy gap experienced by Indigenous Australians – hep B is one of the conditions responsible for this. Recent evidence from research in the Northern Territory suggests that Aboriginal people have a unique strain of the hep B virus passed on over many years that could explain why hep B in some Indigenous people might have a more severe course.

Unlike the other STIs and BBVs, hep B can be prevented by a safe, effective vaccine which has been provided for all infants in Australia since 2000 (and in the Northern Territory since 1990). As a result, new hep B infections in children born since 2000 (and in those who received adolescent catch-up vaccination from 1998 onwards) have fallen substantially. However funded hepatitis B vaccine for Indigenous adults is available only in some states and territories, which limits access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who remain at much higher risk of hep B infection. This inequality in access cannot continue.

For people who already have hep B infection, vaccination has no effect. We know many people living with hep B, including Indigenous people, have never been diagnosed. However being tested for hep B is easy – it’s a simple blood test which can tell whether someone has hep B, is immune through past infection or vaccination, or if a person needs vaccination. National guidelines suggest all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults whose hep B status isn’t known should be offered testing.

If someone is found to have hep B, they should receive counselling and household and sexual partners should be tested and vaccinated if not immune. Highly effective treatments for hep B are available in Australia that greatly reduce the chance of developing liver scarring or cancer, and involve taking a tablet once a day. However unlike for hep C, these are not cures – treatment needs to continue, often for many years. We know that in many areas of Australia where most people living with hep B are Indigenous people, treatment uptake is very low – this needs to be changed urgently. With better access to prevention, diagnosis and treatment, the burden of hep B on Indigenous health can be eliminated in coming years.

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Hepatitis C – the bad news and the good

A/Prof James Ward Head Infectious Diseases Research Aboriginal Health South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute

Hepatitis C is a virus that affects the liver. It is thought that 95% of the Hep C in Australia is acquired through sharing of injecting equipment or other equipment that transfers blood from one person to another, such as for tattooing. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are overrepresented in hep C diagnoses in Australia, with an estimated 20,000-30,000 diagnoses in our population.  Without treatment hep C damages the liver, and can result in cancer and death.

The bad news is that over the last five years rates of hep C diagnoses have increased by 43% in our community, yet the in the non-Indigenous community have been stable. Particularly concerning are rates of diagnosis among people in the age group 15-24 years of age with rates 8 times higher than non-Indigenous people in the same age group.  This age group is concerning because it is most likely that these infections are new infections given the nature of Hepatitis C being transmitted primarily through injection drug use.  Also of concern because of the high and rising Indigenous incarceration rates is the proportion of people in Australian prisons who are diagnosed with hep C, with an estimated 50-65% of all prisoners diagnosed with Hep C.

The good news however is there is now a cure for Hep C

But there is great news about hep C treatment:

  • There is now a cure for hep C. Daily tablets for 10-12 weeks are more than 90% effective of curing hep C
  • The cost of these tablets is subsidised by the Government – a full script costs around $40
  • Hep C treatment can be organised by Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services or any GP practice.
  • There are very few side effects from these new tablets that cure hep C.

In the first 6 months since the Australian Government approved this new medication for treating hep C almost 20,000 Australians have been cured. Of these we do not know how many Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander people have been cured but our suspicion is relatively low numbers.

Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander people who have been diagnosed with Hep C have the right to get the advantage of this major breakthrough in Hep C treatment. Now is the time to encourage someone you know who is living with hep C to take treatment for this condition.   The more people we can get cured of hep C the better the chances are of reducing new infections in the community.