NACCHO Media Alerts : Top 10 Current Aboriginal Health News Stories to keep you up to date

1. Aboriginal sexual health: The Australian : Was the syphilis epidemic preventable ? NACCHO responds

2.Royal Flying Doctors Service extra 4-year funding $84 million Mental Health and Dental Services

3.Nurses PAQ continues political membership campaign spreading false and misleading information about our cultural safety

4.AMSANT has called for re-doubled efforts to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission into the care and protection of children in partnership with NT Aboriginal leaders

5.Dialysis facilities worth $17 million are sitting padlocked, empty and unused in WA’s north

6.ALRC Report into Incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.

7. Minister Ken Wyatt : Listening to Indigenous Needs: Healthy Ears Program Extended with $29.4 commitment

8.Tangentyere Alice Springs Women’s Family Safety Group visits Canberra

9.Minister Ken Wyatt launches our NACCHO RACGP National Guide to a preventative health assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

10. Your guide to a healthy Easter : #Eggs-actly  

 

1.Aboriginal sexual health: The Australian : Was the syphilis epidemic preventable ? NACCHO responds

“These (STIs) are preventable diseases and we need increased testing, treatment plans and a ­culturally appropriate health ­education campaign that focuses resources on promoting safe-sex messages delivered to at-risk ­communities by our trained Aboriginal workforce,”

Pat Turner, chief executive of peak body the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, is adamant about this.

Read full article in Easter Monday The Australian or Part B below

2.Royal Flying Doctors Service extra 4-year funding $84 million Mental Health and Dental Services

Read full press release here

 

3.Nurses PAQ continues political membership campaign spreading false and misleading information about cultural safety

SEE NACCHO Response

SEE an Indigenous Patients Response

See Nurses PAQ Misleading and false campaign

4. AMSANT  has called for re-doubled efforts to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission into the care and protection of children in partnership with NT Aboriginal leaders

Read full AMSANT press Release

Listen to interview with Donna Ah Chee

Press Release @NACCHOChair calls on the Federal Government to work with us to keep our children safe

#WeHaveTheSolutions Plus comments from CEO’s @Anyinginyi @DanilaDilba

4.Dialysis facilities worth $17 million are sitting padlocked, empty and unused in WA’s north

Read full Story HERE

6.ALRC Report into Incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People;

Read Download Full Transcript

Senator Patrick Dodson

Download the report from HERE

Community Groups Call For Action on Indigenous Incarceration Rates

7. Minister Ken Wyatt : Listening to Indigenous Needs: Healthy Ears Program Extended with $29.4 commitment

The Australian Government has committed $29.4 million to extend the Healthy Ears – Better Hearing, Better Listening Program, to help ensure tens of thousands more Indigenous children and young adults grow up with good hearing and the opportunities it brings.

Read Press Release HEAR

8.Tangentyere Alice Springs Women’s Family Safety Group visits Canberra

This week the Tangentyere Women’s Family Safety Group from Alice Springs were in Canberra. They shared with politicians, their own solutions for their own communities, and they are making an enormous difference.
Big thanks to all the Tangentyere women who made it to Canberra.

Read Download the Press Release

TANGENTYERE WOMEN’S FAMILY SAFETY GROUP (FED

9. Minister Ken Wyatt launches our NACCHO RACGP National Guide to a preventative health assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

Read press releases and link to Download the National Guide

10. Your guide to a  healthy Easter : #Eggs-actly  

And finally hope you had a Happy Easter all you mob ! After you have enjoyed your chocolate eggs and hot cross buns , this is how much exercise you will require to work of those Easter treats .

For medical and nutrition advice please check with your ACCHO Doctor , Health Promotion / Lifestyle teams or one of our ACCHO nutritionists

 

Part B Full Text The Australian Article Easter Monday

There is no reason it should have happened, especially not in a first-world country like Australia, but it has: indigenous communities in the country’s north are in the grip of wholly treatable sexually transmitted diseases.

In the case of syphilis, it is an epidemic — West Australian Labor senator Patrick Dodson ­described it as such, in a fury, when health department bureaucrats mumbled during Senate estimates about having held a few “meetings” on the matter.

There have been about 2000 syphilis notifications — with at least 13 congenital cases, six of them fatal — since the outbreak began in northern Queensland in 2011, before spreading to the Northern Territory, Western Australia and, finally, South Australia.

What’s worse, it could have been stopped. James Ward, of the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, wrote in mid-2011 that there had been a “downward trend” over several years and it was likely at that point that the “elimination of syphilis is achievable within indigenous ­remote communities”.

But governments were slow to react, and Ward is now assisting in the design of an $8.8 million emergency “surge” treatment approach on the cusp of being rolled out in Cairns and Darwin, with sites in the two remaining affected states yet to be identified.

It will be an aggressive strategy — under previous guidelines, you had to have been identified during a health check as an active carrier of syphilis to be treated. Now, anyone who registers antibodies for the pathogen during a blood prick test, whether actively carrying syphilis or not, will receive an ­immediate penicillin injection in an attempt to halt the infection’s geographical spread.

This is key: the high mobility of indigenous people in northern and central Australia means pathogens cross jurisdictions with ­impunity. Australian Medical ­Association president Michael Gannon calls syphilis a “clever bacterium that will never go away”, warning that “bugs don’t respect state borders”.

Olga Havnen, one of the Northern Territory’s most respected public health experts, points out that many people “will have connections and relations from the Torres Strait through to the Kimberley and on to Broome — and it’s only a matter of seven or eight kilometres between PNG and the northernmost islands there in the Torres Strait”.

“This is probably something that’s not really understood by the broader Australian community,” Havnen says. “I suspect once you get a major outbreak of something like encephalitis or Dengue fever, any of those mosquito-borne diseases, and that starts to encroach onto the mainland, then people will start to get a bit worried.”

Olga Havnen, CEO of the Danila Dilba Health Service, says transmission is complex issue in Australia’s indigenous communities.
Olga Havnen, CEO of the Danila Dilba Health Service, says transmission is complex issue in Australia’s indigenous communities.

But it is not just syphilis — ­indeed, not even just STIs — that have infectious disease authorities concerned and the network of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations stretched.

Chlamydia, the nation’s most frequently diagnosed STI in 2016 based on figures from the Kirby Institute at the University of NSW, is three times more likely to be contracted by an indigenous Australian than a non-­indigenous one.

The rate was highest in the NT, at 1689.1 notifications per 100,000 indigenous people, compared with 607.9 per 100,000 non-indigenous Territorians. If you’re indigenous, you’re seven times more likely to contract gonorrhoea, spiking to 15 times more likely if only women are considered. Syphilis, five times more likely.

As the syphilis response gets under way, health services such as the one Havnen leads, the Darwin-based Danila Dilba, will be given extra resources to tackle it. “With proper resourcing, if you want to be doing outreach with those people who might be visitors to town living in the long grass, then we’re probably best placed to be able to do that,” she says.

But the extra focus comes with a warning. A spate of alleged sexual assaults on Aboriginal children, beginning with a two-year-old in Tennant Creek last month and followed by three more alleged ­attacks, has raised speculation of a link between high STI rates and evidence of child sexual assault.

After the first case, former NT children’s commissioner Howard Bath told this newspaper that STI rates were “a better indicator of background levels of abuse than reporting because so many of those cases don’t get reported to anyone, whereas kids with serious infections do tend to go to a ­doctor”. Others, including Alice Springs town councillor Jacinta Price and Aboriginal businessman Warren Mundine, raised the ­spectre of the need for removing more at-risk indigenous children from dangerous environments.

Children play AFL in Yeundumu. Picture: Jason Edwards
Children play AFL in Yeundumu. Picture: Jason Edwards

However, Sarah Giles, Danila Dilba’s clinical director and a medical practitioner of 20 years’ standing in northern Australia, warns this kind of response only exacerbates the problem. She is one of a range of public health authorities who, like Havnen, say connecting high STI figures to the very real scourge of child sex abuse simply makes no sense. They do not carry correlated data sets, the experts say.

“One of the things that’s really unhelpful about trying to manage STIs at a population level is to link it with child abuse and mandatory reporting, and for people to be fearful of STIs,” Giles says. “The problem is that when they’re conflated and when communities feel that they can’t get help ­because things might be misinterpreted or things might be reported, they’re less likely to present with symptoms. The majority of STIs are in adults and they’re sexually transmitted.”

Havnen says there is evidence of STIs being transmitted non-sexually, including to children, such as through poor hand ­hygiene, although Giles says that is “reasonably rare”. And while NT data shows five children under 12 contracted either chlamydia or gonorrhoea in 2016 (none had syphilis), and there were another five under 12 last year, Havnen points to the fact that over the past decade there has been no increasing trend in under 12s being affected. Where there has been a rise in the NT is in people aged between 13 and 19, with annual gonorrhoea notifications increasing from 64 cases in the 14-15-year-old ­female cohort in 2006 to 94 notifications in 2016.

In the 16-17-year-old female ­cohort the same figures were 96 and 141 and in the 12-13-year-old group it rose from 20 in 2006 to 33 in 2016. Overall, for both boys and girls under 16, annual gonorrhoea notifications rose from 109 in 2006 to 186 in 2016, according to figures provided to the royal ­commission into child detention by NT Health. Havnen describes the rise as “concerning but not, on its own, evidence of increasing ­levels of sexual abuse”.

Ward is more direct. Not all STIs are the result of sexual abuse, he warns, and not all sexual abuse results in an STI. If you’re a health professional trying to deal with an epidemiological wildfire, the distinction matters — the data and its correct interpretations can literally be a matter of life and death.

Indeed, in its own written cav­eats to the material it provided to the royal commission, the department warns that sexual health data is “very much subject to variations in testing” and warns against making “misleading assumptions about trends”. Ward says: “Most STIs notified in remote indigenous communities are ­assumed to be the result of sex ­between consenting adults — that is, 16 to 30-year-olds. Of the under 16s, the majority are 14 and 15-year-olds.” He says a historically high background prevalence of STIs in remote indigenous communities — along with a range of other ­infectious diseases long eradicated elsewhere — is to blame for their ongoing presence. Poor education, health services and hygiene contribute, and where drug and ­alcohol problems exist, sexually risky behaviour is more likely too. The lingering impact of colonisation and arrival of diseases then still common in broader ­society cannot be underestimated.

But Ward claims that an apparently high territory police figure of about 700 cases of “suspected child sexual offences” in the NT over the past five years may be misleading. He says a large number of these are likely to be the result of mandatory reporting, where someone under 16 is known to have a partner with an age gap of more than two years, or someone under 14 is known to be engaging in sexual activity. Ward points out that 15 is the nationwide ­median sexual debut age, an age he suggests is dropping. At any rate, he argues, child sex abuse is unlikely to be the main reason for that high rate of mandatory ­reporting in the NT.

Areyonga is a small Aboriginal community a few hours drive from Alice Springs.
Areyonga is a small Aboriginal community a few hours drive from Alice Springs.

Data matters, and so does how it is used. Chipping away at the perception of child sexual abuse in indigenous communities are the latest figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare showing the rate of removals for that crime is actually higher in non-indigenous Australia.

According to a report this month from the AIHW, removals based on substantiated sex abuse cases in 2016-17 were starkly different for each cohort: 8.3 per cent for indigenous children, from a total of 13,749 removals, and 13.4 per cent for non-indigenous children, from 34,915 removals.

Havnen concedes there is a need for better reporting of child abuse and has called for a confidential helpline that would be free of charge and staffed around the clock by health professionals.

It’s based on a model already in use in Europe that she says deals with millions of calls a year — but it would require a comprehensive education and publicity campaign if it were to gain traction in remote Australia. And that means starting with the adults.

“If you’re going to do sex ­education in schools and you start to move into the area about sexual abuse and violence and so on, it’s really important that adults are ­educated first about what to do with that information,” she says. “Because too often if you just ­educate kids, and they come home and make a disclosure, they end up being told they’re liars.”

These challenges exist against the backdrop of a community already beset by a range of infectious diseases barely present elsewhere in the country, including the STIs that should be so easily treatable. It is, as Havnen is the first to admit, a complex matter.

Cheryl Jones, president of the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases, says the answer is better primary treatment solutions and education, rather than trying to solve the problem after it has ­occurred. “For any of these public health infectious disease problems in ­remote and rural areas, we need to support basic infrastructure at the point of care and work alongside communities to come up with ­solutions,” she says.

Sisters play in the mud after a rare rain at Hoppy's 'town camp' on the outskirts of Alice Springs.
Sisters play in the mud after a rare rain at Hoppy’s ‘town camp’ on the outskirts of Alice Springs.

Pat Turner, chief executive of peak body the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, is adamant about this. “These (STIs) are preventable diseases and we need increased testing, treatment plans and a ­culturally appropriate health ­education campaign that focuses resources on promoting safe-sex messages delivered to at-risk ­communities by our trained Aboriginal workforce,” Turner says.

The Australian Medical ­Association has called for the formation of a national Centre for Disease Control, focusing on global surveillance and most likely based in the north, as being “urgently needed to provide national leadership and to co-ordinate rapid and effective public health responses to manage communicable diseases and outbreaks”.

“The current approach to disease threats, and control of infectious diseases, relies on disjointed state and commonwealth formal structures, informal networks, collaborations, and the goodwill of public health and infectious disease physicians,” the association warned in a submission to the Turnbull government last year.

However, the federal health ­department has rebuffed the CDC argument, telling the association that “our current arrangements are effective” and warning the suggestion could introduce “considerable overlap and duplication with existing functions”.

“I think it (the CDC) might have some merit, if it helps to ­advocate with government about what needs to happen,” Havnen says, “but if these things are going to be targeted at Aboriginal bodies, it needs to be a genuine partnership. It’s got to be informed by the realities on the ground and what we know. That information has to be fed up into the planning process.”

Minister @KenWyattMP launches NACCHO @RACGP National guide for healthcare professionals to improve health of #Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients

 

All of our 6000 staff in 145 member services in 305 health settings across Australia will have access to this new and update edition of the National Guide. It’s a comprehensive edition for our clinicians and support staff that updates them all with current medical practice.

“NACCHO is committed to quality healthcare for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, and will work with all levels of government to ensure accessibility for all.”

NACCHO Chair John Singer said the updated National Guide would help governments improve health policy and lead initiatives that support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

You can Download the Guide via this LINK

A/Prof Peter O’Mara, NACCHO Chair John Singer Minister Ken Wyatt & RACGP President Dr Bastian Seidel launch the National guide at Parliament house this morning

“Prevention is always better than cure. Already one of the most widely used clinical guidelines in Australia, this new edition includes critical information on lung cancer, Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and preventing child and family abuse and violence.

The National Guide maximises the opportunities at every clinic visit to prevent disease and to find it early.It will help increase vigilance over previously undiagnosed conditions, by promoting early intervention and by supporting broader social change to help individuals and families improve their wellbeing.”

Minister Ken Wyatt highlights what is new to the 3rd Edition of the National Guide-including FASD, lung cancer, young people lifecycle, family abuse & violence and supporting families to optimise child safety & wellbeing : Pic Lisa Whop SEE Full Press Release Part 2 Below

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) have joined forces to produce a guide that aims to improve the level of healthcare currently being delivered to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients and close the gap.

Chair of RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Associate Professor Peter O’Mara said the third edition of the National guide to a preventive health assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (the National Guide) is an important resource for all health professionals to deliver best practice healthcare to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients.

“The National Guide will support all healthcare providers, not just GPs, across Australia to improve prevention and early detection of disease and illness,” A/Prof O’Mara said.

“The prevention and early detection of disease and illness can improve people’s lives and increase their lifespans.

“The National Guide will support healthcare providers to feel more confident that they are looking for health issues in the right way.”

RACGP President Dr Bastian Seidel said the RACGP is committed to tackling the health disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

“The National Guide plays a vital role in closing the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health disparity,” Dr Seidel said.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should have equal access to quality healthcare across Australia and the National guide is an essential part of ensuring these services are provided.

“GPs and other healthcare providers who implement the recommendations within the National Guide will play an integral role in reducing health disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, and ensuring culturally responsive and appropriate healthcare is always available.”

The updated third edition of the National Guide can be found on the RACGP website and the NACCHO website.

 

Free to download on the RACGP website and the NACCHO website:

http://www.racgp.org.au/national-guide/

and NACCHO

Part 2 Prevention and Early Diagnosis Focus for a Healthier Future

The critical role of preventive care and tackling the precursors of chronic disease is being boosted in the latest guide for health professionals working to close the gap in health equality for Indigenous Australians

The critical role of preventive care and tackling the precursors of chronic disease is being boosted in the latest guide for health professionals working to close the gap in health equality for Indigenous Australians.

Minister for Indigenous Health, Ken Wyatt AM, today launched the updated third edition of the National guide to a preventive health assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“Prevention is always better than cure,” said Minister Wyatt. “Already one of the most widely used clinical guidelines in Australia, this new edition includes critical information on lung cancer, Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and preventing child and family abuse and violence.

“The National Guide maximises the opportunities at every clinic visit to prevent disease and to find it early.

“It will help increase vigilance over previously undiagnosed conditions, by promoting early intervention and by supporting broader social change to help individuals and families improve their wellbeing.”

The guide, which was first published in 2005, is a joint project between the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners RACGP).

“To give you some idea of the high regard in which it is held, the last edition was downloaded 645,000 times since its release in 2012,” said Minister Wyatt.

“The latest edition highlights the importance of individual, patient-centred care and has been developed to reflect local and regional needs.

“Integrating resources like the national guide across the whole health system plays a pivotal role in helping us meet our Closing the Gap targets.

“The Turnbull Government is committed to accelerating positive change and is investing in targeted activities that have delivered significant reductions in the burden of disease.

“Rates of heart disease, smoking and binge drinking are down. We are on track to achieve the child mortality target for 2018 and deaths associated with kidney and respiratory diseases have also reduced.”

The National Guide is funded under the Indigenous Australian’s Health Programme as part of a record $3.6 billion investment across four financial years.

The RACGP received $429,000 to review, update, publish and distribute the third edition, in hard copy and electronic formats.

The National Guide is available on the RACGP website or by contacting RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health on 1800 000 251 or aboriginalhealth@racgp.org.au.

 

 

 

Press Release @NACCHOChair calls on the Federal Government to work with us to keep our children safe #WeHaveTheSolutions Plus comments from CEO’s @Anyinginyi @DanilaDilba

” The sexual abuse of any Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal children has got to stop.

 It is not acceptable and in no way can our communities, the Australian community at large or Governments at all levels condone this continuing.

 I welcome a thorough investigation by the Northern Territory Child Abuse Taskforce and Children’s Commissioner into this grave allegation.”

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation(NACCHO ) Chair John Singer said he is deeply concerned that some of our  children are being sexually interfered with.

Download Press Release NACCHO Calls on the federal government to work with us to keep our children safe – FINAL

 “According to media reports last this week, a four-year-old boy from the community of Ali Curung in the Northern Territory has been taken to Alice Springs for medical care after he was allegedly sexually assaulted on the weekend and police are investigating.”

See The Guardian article Part 2 Below

” High levels of disadvantage, alongside “vulnerable and very impoverished” communities, was putting children at risk.

What’s really tragic is that we’ve known about them [problems] for well over a decade and more, and there’s been very little sustained, concerted effort to deal with them,

What’s absolutely needed are more of the early intervention and prevention programs, better parenting programs, and a better level of education and awareness about child.”

Chief executive of the Danila Dilba Aboriginal Medical Service, Olga Havnen, is unsurprised by the most recent incident : Interview ABC

 ” The community was devastated, but not surprised by the latest allegations, and there had been a feeling of “absolute hopelessness” as community leaders beared witness to social dysfunction, alcohol abuse and child protection problems.

They are issues which are attribute to overcrowded public housing.

Resourcing across all sectors and services is what’s needed to support vulnerable families,

I think it’s just been a build-up of years and years of neglect and limited resources.”

At least 40 extra houses were needed in the area to reduce overcrowding, and reduce the risk for children.

It just allows for an explosion, if you like, to further dysfunction of Aboriginal families.

[It] just leads to total hopelessness… creating such incidents as what’s happening now where our children are being harmed.”

Barb Shaw, the chief executive of the Anyinginyi Health Aboriginal Corporation, which takes in Ali Curung.

Interview ABC

Photo: Children in the Barkly region have been calling for change. (ABC News: Jane Bardon

NACCHO Aboriginal Health Media Alert March 20

CEO Pat Turner , Olga Havnen CEO Danila Dilba and James Ward appear on #Sunrise to respond to Indigenous child protection issues #wehavethesolutions

#WeHaveTheSolutions :Government must take off the blinkers over these issues, show leadership and take the actions outlined.

1.Immediate Government action to assist families to keep their children safe. We know these are complex issues requiring urgent responses but the abuse still continues.

2.We need a comprehensive approach to child and community safety with a focus on prevention and community education.

3. Establishing a Confidential Child Help Line within Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services by regions which is a no-brainer for any government to fund and implement in this budget cycle.

In getting better rates of disclosure, we can respond to both victims and offenders.  This is particularly important when young people are perpetrators so that they can be held to account for their behaviour and receive appropriate rehabilitation and behavioural change programs.

4.Extra resources should also be made immediately available for wrap around Families and Children Support services to work with traumatised children and their families. This requires a multi-disciplinary professional team to provide full assessment and treatment programs in our local communities. A health-led therapeutic model will deliver much better outcomes for our people.

Often as the academic evidence now suggests, perpetrators have themselves often been abused and they too require treatment not punitive punishment regimes or they will not be rehabilitated and will re-offend.

5.National plan to redress the Social Determinants of Health in Aboriginal communities throughout Australia.[1]

6.Liquor licenses :The NT Government needs to take a good hard look at the total number of liquor licenses granted and curtail them to stop the flow of alcohol. People must come before profits. The grog is killing our people and our children are exposed to the results of that every day.

Those dry communities are to be  commended for their efforts to control alcohol consumption, but the sheer number of liquor outlets at Roadhouses on the Highway and in the closest towns undermines their efforts to live safe and peacefully in their local community. Government must take off the blinkers over these issues, show leadership and take the actions outlined,” said Mr Singer.

Part 2 Boy, 16, charged with rape of four-year-old boy in remote Northern Territory community

Helen Davidson in The Guardian

Noting NACCHO press release was published in online article

A 16-year-old boy has been charged over the alleged rape of a four-year-old boy in a remote Northern Territory community.It is at least the second such incident in the Barkly region, after a two-year-old girl was sexually assaulted in Tennant Creek last month.

The 16-year-old is scheduled to appear in the Alice Springs youth court on Tuesday, to face one charge of sexual intercourse without consent.

The NT police child abuse taskforce was investigating the alleged attack, which reportedly occurred on Sunday, and said it was not seeking anyone else in relation to the matter.

The territory families minister, Dale Wakefield, said a full team of staff was on the ground as part of the child abuse taskforce.

“They are working alongside police and engaging with the family and the community,” she said.

“We have also spoken to the children’s commissioner and will keep her informed of any developments.

“It is heartbreaking for any child anywhere to be harmed. Every child deserves a childhood where they are safe and given pathways to reach their full potential.”

A 24-year-old charged with sexually assaulting a two-year-old in Tennant Creek is scheduled to appear in court in April.

That alleged incident prompted emergency measures by NT authorities, including the immediate deployment of extra Territory Families department staff and the implementation of strict alcohol restrictions on Tennant Creek.

The community where the latest alleged assault happened is one of about 100 in the NT with restrictions or bans on drinking alcohol.

Steve Edgington, the mayor of Tennant Creek, said there had been “immediate learnings” after the alleged assault in his town.

Edgington said there was a clear need to decentralise government resources and divert them to identified hotspots of disadvantage.

“What needs to be done is a full audit of where these particular incidents are happening,” he said.

“I’m sure they’re happening elsewhere. We need to allocate resources to where these incidents are, tackling issues from the ground up. It’s just critical – children need to be safe in our communities.”

Edgington said most resources in the Barkly region were based in Tennant Creek and there were a number of small remote communities nearby where governments could look at what resources were allocated for child protection and welfare, housing, and other areas.

On Monday the NT chief minister, Michael Gunner, said extra Territory Families staff had been deployed to the community and the incident would also be referred to the children’s commissioner.

“This is an extremely disturbing incident,” he told the ABC. “Every child, no matter where they live, deserves to be in a safe environment.”

[1] http://www.who.int/violenceprevention/publications/en/index.html and Canadian Red Cross, Ten Steps to Creating Safe Environments, 2nd Edition How organizations and communities can prevent, mitigate and respond to interpersonal violence 2011

Aboriginal #SexualHealth News : Minister @KenWyattMP to launch the third edition NACCHO and @RACGP National guide to a preventive health assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’

 

” In the fifth part of a series focusing on the coming third edition of the ‘National guide to a preventive health assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’, newsGP looks at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ sexual health and prevention from blood-borne viruses.”

The third edition of the National Guide will be launched next Wednesday 28 March by Minister Wyatt at Parliament House Canberra see content details Part 2 below

RACGP Website here

NACCHO Aboriginal Sexual Health 40 Previous articles

The NACCHO/RACGP National Guide is a resource created for primary healthcare practitioners to help them deliver best practice preventive healthcare to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people anywhere in Australia.

The National Guide is user-friendly with information that is accurate and relevant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities. It is supported by evidence-based recommendations, good practice points, and child, youth and adult lifecycle wall charts with age-specific recommendations.

New topics 3 edition :

• Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder

• Interventions to prevent child maltreatment – optimising child health and wellbeing

• Antenatal care section is now expanded

• Family abuse and violence

• Lung cancer

• Young people lifecycle summary wall chart to complement the existing child and adult charts.

Download

National-Guide-prerelease-info-Flyer-2017

Part 1 : Sexual health education for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Edited by Morgan Liotta

The National Guide details several resources that aim to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities through greater levels of sexual health education.

Sexually transmitted infection (STI) and blood-borne virus (BBV) rates within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations can often be difficult to identify and diagnose, due to certain cultural beliefs and a potential lack of access to appropriate healthcare in remote areas. But education and culturally appropriate primary healthcare play an essential role in helping to increase diagnosis these communities

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation’s (NACCHO) and the RACGP’s National guide to a preventive health assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (National Guide) states that the prevalence and incidence of some STIs can also be challenging to estimate accurately due to under-identification of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander status, but that rates are increasing.

The National Guide advocates for interventions by healthcare professionals to help decrease rates of STIs and BBVs in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Routine screening, education on and accessibility of condoms, hepatitis B and human papillomavirus (HPV) immunisation programs, and needle and syringe exchange programs, can all contribute to early diagnoses and prevention of STIs and BBVs, as well as appropriate management for those diagnosed with infection.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are over-represented in prison populations and have high rates of receptive sharing of syringes, both risk factors for acquiring hepatitis C. As a consequence, the hepatitis C notification rate among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has increased by more than 20% between 2012–16, while remaining stable in non-Indigenous Australians. With new, effective treatments now available for hepatitis C, eliminating the stigma associated with the infection is a crucial strategy.

Recent research reveals that gonorrhoea notifications are seven times more common among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people than for non-Indigenous Australians. The chlamydia notification rate in major cities was found to be nearly three times as high among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people than non-Indigenous Australians, increasing to five times higher in remote areas.

In addition, rates of syphilis are again increasing in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, after declining up to 2010.

Video added by NACCHO

The National Guide reports that rates of HIV were more than two times higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples than for non-Indigenous Australians in 2015, and that infectious syphilis notifications have increased significantly due to a 2015 outbreak in Far North Queensland. Current syphilis infection in northern Australia is considered ‘out of control’ in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healthcare organisations.

One example of safe-sex education is the Condom tree program in Western Australia, which aims to reduce cost barriers and feelings of shame and embarrassment by providing free condoms in local communities.

The Department of Health recently released a series of videos voiced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to help promote STI prevention in their communities. Initiatives such as these videos are designed to help reduce feelings of shame or stigma Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people may have attached to STIs and/or BBVs.

A diverse range of support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and healthcare workers, including a comprehensive HIV resource, is available for communities throughout Australia.

The National Guide details more resources, with the aim of empowering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities through greater levels of sexual health education and the provision of high-quality culturally appropriate primary care.

The National Guide covers further information on sexual health in the following chapters:

  • Sexual health and blood-borne viruses
  • Antenatal care
  • The health of young people
  • Alcohol
  • Family abuse and violence

The National Guide was conceived by the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) in 2001, and is now in its third edition being developed in partnership by NACCHO and The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP).

Part 2 What is the National Guide? Edition 3

Who is it for?

All health professionals delivering primary healthcare for the benefit of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Why use it?

• To help prevent disease, detect early and unrecognised disease, promote health, and consider broader social interventions, while allowing for local and regional variations.

• For evidence-based recommendations and good practice points.

• For the child, young people and adult lifecycle wall charts with age-specific recommendations.

• For the resource lists.

When will it be published?

The third edition of the National Guide and following associated resources will be available in early 2018:

• National Guide website – improved design and usability

• National Guide recommendations – limited print run for ACCHSs

• National Guide evidence base – downloadable PDF.

What’s happening in 2018 to accompany the launch of the

National Guide?

• The third edition of the National Guide will be distributed to NACCHO Affiliates and health services.

• NACCHO and RACGP will be hosting workshops across Australia to support implementation of the National Guide.

What’s new in the third edition?

New topics:

• Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder

• Interventions to prevent child maltreatment – optimising child health and wellbeing

• Antenatal care section is now expanded

• Family abuse and violence

• Lung cancer

• Young people lifecycle summary wall chart to complement the existing child and adult charts.

How to access the National Guide:

The third edition of the National Guide will be March 28

Free to download on the RACGP website and the NACCHO website:

http://www.racgp.org.au/national-guide/

and http://www.naccho.org.au

For further information, contact

RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health on 1800 000 251 or aboriginalhealth@racgp.org.au

NACCHO Aboriginal #sexualhealth #ClosetheGap : An STI epidemic in young people does not signal sexual abuse

Head 

” Over the past two weeks, a number of commentators have called for the removal of Aboriginal children with sexually transmissible infections (STIs) from their families. This has resulted from the wrongful conflating of rates of STI notifications with child sexual abuse. It’s important to delineate these two issues.

Young people living in remote Aboriginal communities, especially those aged 15-29 years, have high rates of STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis. But stating all STI cases among young people are related to child sexual abuse isn’t helpful in dealing with either a serious public health matter or the well-being and safety of vulnerable children.”

From James Ward Doctor John Boffa , Belinda Hengel

From The Conversation

Download from NACCHO / AMSANT

Child Sexual Abuse and STI data – the facts, prepared by AMSANT, addresses key questions relating to child sexual abuse and STI data. It is important that the facts are known and the issues are better understood in our sector. NACCHO is advocating for additional resources for our members in the hot spots of North Queensland, the Northern Territory, and Kimberley.

Download

http://www.naccho.org.au/wp-content/uploads/Child-Sexual-Abuse-and-STI-data-the-facts.pdf


Read more: Northern Australia syphilis outbreak is about government neglect, not child abuse


More STIs in Indigenous communities

In 2016, the rate of chlamydia notifications among Aboriginal people aged 15 to 29 was 4,602 per 100,000 – compared with 1,479 per 100,000 for their non-Indigenous peers.

For gonorrhoea, this was 1,825 compared with 173.

The rate of young Aboriginal people infected with syphilis was 173 per 100,000, compared with 15 per 100,000 in non-Indigenous peers, driven largely by an outbreak occurring over the last six years across northern and central Australia.

The significantly higher notification rates among Aboriginal young people are skewed by the higher numbers in remote areas, where rate differences are even greater.

The reasons for these rates of STI diagnoses are complicated and complex. They include poorer outcomes in many of the social determinants of sexual health: education and health literacy, access to health services, racism (in the form of stigmatising social institutions), income and employment rates. All of these are known to be determinants of higher STI rates in populations globally.


Read more: Social determinants – how class and wealth affect our health


STIs are also driven by risk behaviours such as inconsistent condom use, early sexual debut, partner changes and alcohol misuse. A recent study of 2,877 young Aboriginal people found the median age of sexual debut to be 15 years – around 50% of the participants had their sexual encounter before, and 50% after.

The same study found most people had sex with similar aged peers. The median number of partners in the last year was one, and inconsistent condom use was common, especially when alcohol and or other drugs were involved. All of this isn’t that different really from non-Aboriginal Australians.

The risk of acquiring an STI in remote Aboriginal communities is also influenced by issues including demographics and mobility. The median age of Aboriginal people in Australia is 22 years (a peak time for sexual activity) compared to 36 years for non-Aboriginal counterparts.

Short-term and temporary mobility, especially between remote communities and across borders, also peaks in young Aboriginal adults, typically aged 17 to 25. This happens to occur also when young people begin to explore and expand their immediate social networks.

What is different between non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal people living in remote areas is the underlying prevalence of STIs in the latter communities.

Among 16- to 19-year-olds in remote communities, prevalence has been estimated at 13% for chlamydia and 12% for gonorrhoea.

This compares to prevalence rates of around 3% for chlamydia and way less than 1% for gonorrhoea and syphilis among heterosexual non-Aboriginal people of the same age, living in urban areas of Australia.

With such high prevalences, it’s not surprising young people having consensual sex with each other in remote Aboriginal communities are diagnosed with STIs more often than non-Aboriginal peers in mainstream Australia.

What about STIs in children and young people less than 16 years?

A small proportion of STIs reported each year occur in people under 16 years of age. Around 97% of these cases in people aged less than 16 years occur in young people aged 13 to 15 which relate to two issues: early sexual debut with similar aged peers or sexual abuse.

In rare cases, STIs have been detected in those under 12 years of age. According to personal communication with the Northern Territory’s Department of Health, there were five cases in total of either chlamydia or gonorrhoea in 2017. No cases of syphilis were reported in children less than 12 years. All of these cases have been reported and investigated, by the relevant authorities.

Sexual abuse is never acceptable. All of us need to do more to ensure every child and young person in these communities can live in a safe environment.

It has been recently reported by the Northern Territory Police Department that around 700 cases of suspected “child sexual offences” have been notified over the last five years in young people aged less than 16 years.

It’s important to note that a large number of these are likely to be the result of mandatory reporting. Mandatory reporting occurs when young people under the age of 16 are known to have a partner with an age gap of more than two years, or where there is any suspicion of sexual abuse, or when a person under the age of 14 is known to be engaging in sexual activity.

Mandatory reporting is required by anyone (parent, teacher, clinician or any other person) who becomes aware of such activity.

Given around half of young people in remote areas have commenced sexual activity before the age of 16, it’s not surprising a significant number of notifications have been reported to authorities. These notifications annually represent around 0.01% of the Aboriginal population in this age group.

What needs to be done

As is the case in many remote communities across Australia, there has been a failure to adequately address STIs even in people over the age of 16. Commonwealth, state and territory governments have a responsibility to address these issues holistically with programs that have resonance for young Aboriginal people.

Education, child protection and health departments all have a role to play. More resources are desperately required from Commonwealth, state and territory governments to address this gap in public health.

Further, thinking outside the square to address STIs holistically is required. Building resilience in young Aboriginal people, tapping into the agency that young people already have to reduce risk from STI acquisition, or curbing alcohol through supply reduction measures should be considered as solutions to addressing STIs in remote areas including in larger centres.

A basic principle of any communicable disease outbreak is to quickly respond to diagnose and treat all cases. The ongoing syphilis outbreak and the sustained rates of other STIs in remote Australia, is a case in hand where an urgent public health response is required.

Among other measures, this will require a large, well-resourced response to screen and treat a large proportion of young people in the affected areas within a relatively short time period. Aboriginal community controlled health services and other primary care services can achieve this if properly resourced.

There are examples of successful approaches to address STIs through well-resourced Aboriginal community controlled health services and these need to be built upon.

The program from Nganampa Health, an Aboriginal community controlled health service, that has developed and implemented a comprehensive approach to addressing STIs has shown a reduction in rates over a number of decades and needs to be expanded to other regions of remote Australia.

Donna Ah Chee, CEO of the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, and Olga Havnen, CEO of the Danila Dilba Health Service, contributed to this article

NACCHO Aboriginal #SexualHealth debate #CloseTheGap : Media reports ” Warning on sexually transmitted diseases ignored ” corrected by Minister

 ” Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion ignored a plea from a government MP more than a year ago to implement a $25 million policy to combat sexually transmitted diseases gripping Aboriginal communities, instead adopting a $9m program that remains stalled.

The Australian has obtained a letter penned by Liberal senator Dean Smith warning that the rise of STIs in indigenous communities was “disturbing” and urged Senator Scullion to take immediate action, describing the situation as “critical”.

See Minister Scullion’s  Correction part 2 below

 ” The Minister for Indigenous Health, Ken Wyatt, has confirmed that the surge response is not “stalled” as The Australian has claimed and is being rolled out in partnership with the States and Territories as well as Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations.”

Front Page of the Australian this morning

“I’m sure you would agree that the increase in rates are disturbing and it’s critical that we tackle this challenge head on to ensure the problems do not escalate to a crisis point,” Senator Smith told Senator Scullion in December 2016.

When contacted yesterday about the letter, Senator Scullion shifted blame for the government’s inaction to Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt.

Senator Scullion’s spokesman told The Australian he passed Senator Smith’s letter on to the “health portfolio”.

The letter, addressed to Senator Scullion and copied to Mr Wyatt and former health minister Sussan Ley, outlined a ­detailed proposal drafted by ­experts James Ward and Frank Bowden, in consultation with the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, to tackle a syphilis epidemic in ­indigenous communities.

Professor Ward yesterday confirmed he had meetings with Senator Scullion, Mr Wyatt and Health Minister Greg Hunt about his policy proposal. The Ward-Bowden policy was drafted following meetings with Ms Ley.

Six children have died from gestational syphilis since the epidemic emerged in north Queensland in 2011 and later spread to the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia.

The government sat on the $25m policy until last November when it agreed to adopt one third of it as part of an $8.8m plan to tackle the syphilis outbreak in central and northern Australia.

The two other elements of the proposed three-year program — to reduce HIV risks and broader STI risks in Aboriginal communities — were rejected.

Since announcing the watered-down policy, the government has failed to rollout the program ­despite bureaucrats holding meetings about its implementation since August, before its funding was signed off by Mr Wyatt.

Mr Wyatt said yesterday the rollout would begin in Cairns and Darwin in May. He said the syphilis outbreak was an “absolute ­priority” and had been targeted on a national basis since 2015 but more funding was needed because the states had not contained it.

“This is why the Chief Medical Officer is leading a nationally co-ordinated enhanced response to the outbreak in conjunction with states and territories who have the primary role for delivering sexual health services and dealing with infectious disease outbreaks,” Mr Wyatt said.

Professor Ward said adopting only a third of the policy would ­reduce its efficacy and cost the community more money to address the problem in the long term.

“We put it to them in December 2016 and they still haven’t rolled out any of it. I don’t mean to make any judgment about whether they are dragging their heels or not,” Professor Ward said.

Olga Havnen, chief executive of the Darwin-based Danila Dilba health service, said she was consulted on Professor Ward’s policy and expressed anger it had not been adopted in full.

“It is obscene, it is ridiculous. If you are going to tackle STIs then it would have made sense to do a comprehensive response,” she said. “This is a preventable disease and, I can tell you now, if this was happening in the major suburbs of Sydney or Melbourne there would have been ­urgent and immediate action.”

Retired Aboriginal magistrate Sue Gordon, who chaired the Howard government’s Northern Territory intervention taskforce, said it was about time state and federal governments took the issue seriously.

Labor indigenous senator Pat Dodson said: “The government has not taken the outbreak seriously enough and have not taken appropriate action to tackle the outbreak, otherwise we would not be in this situation.”

Part 2 **CORRECTION**

Minister for Indigenous Affairs
Senator the Hon. Nigel Scullion

Correction to incorrect reporting in The Australian newspaper

Thursday 15 March 2018
Today’s Australian article by Greg Brown, Sex disease warning ignored,  incorrectly states I ignored a letter by Senator Dean Smith in December 2016 regarding a plan to tackle increasing rates of Sexually Transmissible Infections (STIs) in the Indigenous population.

This is grossly misleading and entirely incorrect. I did not ignore Senator Smith’s letter or the request contained in it but referred it to the Indigenous Health portfolio as the relevant and appropriate portfolio with responsibility for Indigenous Health issues. I responded to Senator Smith on this basis.

Notwithstanding that States and Territories have primary responsibility for delivering sexual health services and dealing with infectious disease outbreaks, the Minister for Indigenous Health announced a nationally coordinated surge response in November last year to address the rising rates of STIs in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.

The Minister for Indigenous Health, Ken Wyatt, has confirmed that the surge response is not “stalled” as The Australian has claimed and is being rolled out in partnership with the States and Territories as well as Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations.

Questions about the status of the surge response or the proposal referred to in this article should be referred to the Department of Health, as is appropriate.

To suggest however that I ignored any warnings regarding the protection of human life is absolutely repugnant and appalling and I reject any such assertion unequivocally.

This is yet another example of ill-informed and incorrect reporting of Indigenous issues by The Australian newspaper.

NACCHO Aboriginal #SexualHealth #ChildProtection debate #CloseTheGap : Media reports linking STI rates to the abuse of children without evidence have come under fire from #Indigenous community leaders and organisations @congressmob @Malarndirri19 @OnTopicAus

 

” Indigenous organisations have called out comments by politicians and media who have linked STI rates among Indigenous children to abuse without substantial evidence.

The federal Children’s Minister David Gillespie was quoted in News Corporation paper the Courier Mail saying he was shocked by the rates of sexually transmitted diseases amongst Indigenous children and appeared to link the rates to abuse.”

Media reports linking STI rates to the abuse of children without evidence have come under fire from Indigenous community leaders and organisations. By Robert Burton-Bradley, Elliana Lawford see part 1 Below

” The debates in response to news coming out of Tennant Creek and about high STI rates in underage children have splintered. A narrow debate has centred primarily on whether or not to ‘remove children who have suffered’,” the statement said.

“Child abuse in any form, such as we have seen in Tennant Creek, requires that perpetrators must be brought to account in accordance with the law. Plus, it is important to help bring about appropriate responses, but those responses need to come in close consultation with Aboriginal people and organisations. Depicting our leaders as silent or ‘uninterested’ about what is happening in Aboriginal communities is not only counterproductive, but malicious.”

It is highly offensive and ignorant to link any form of child abuse with being acceptable in Aboriginal culture.” – National Congress

Download the Congress Press Release HERE

Shared Responsibility

We have a shared responsibility to ensure the rights of every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child to be safe and thrive in their families, communities and cultures. To achieve this, Closing the Gap targets should be expanded to:

  • ensure our children’s safety by including an additional target to eliminate the over-representation of our children in out-of-home care by 2040, sub-targets that address the underlying causes of child protection intervention; and
  • foster our children’s wellbeing and development by strengthening the current target on education to eliminate the under-representation of our 0 to 5-year-old children in early childhood education and care services by 2040

National Congress 1 – Tennant Creek Abuse & High STI Rates – Media Release Final 13th March 2018

“Debates facilitated by the wrong people does little more than stir up emotions and reinforce negative stereotypes rather than focus on solutions.

Sexual abuse, child protection and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) among children are challenging topics to discuss. They are emotive issues for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike.

The current debate we are hearing however, is unhealthy and unhelpful.”

 Summer May Finlay see Part 2 below  

ICYMI Yesterdays post and responses

NACCHO Aboriginal #SexualHealth : No point in a one-size-fits-all fix for #STIs in #remote communities @AMSANTaus @CAACongress @Apunipima @TheAHCWA @atsihaw

Part 1 Debate

FROM NITV

Mr Gillespie acknowledged there may be concerns about creating another Stolen Generation, but says he’s more worried about creating an “abandoned and damaged generation”.

“I don’t want them recycled back into harm. I’ve had my eyes opened in the last couple of weeks … looking at STD rates (among Aboriginal children) is just mind-blowing,” he was quoted as saying.

“If a child is being raped we can’t just say it’s OK on cultural grounds.”

Federal Labor Senator for the Northern Territory and Yanyuwa woman Malarndirri Mccarthy told NITV News said politicians needed to be careful in the language they used.

“I think in terms of where this debate is going, I would remind political leaders that the language they use is important, absolutely critical here in making sure that other families, particularly here in the Northern Territory don’t feel vilified by particular comments which are just not helpful,” she said.

“The care and protection of Aboriginal children is everyone’s business — to isolate it to race is absolutely wrong and sets a very dangerous precedent for where our country is going if these debates are purely focused on the colour of your skin.”

The Courier Mail article this morning claimed Mr Gillespie was in favour of ‘white families’ being allowed to adopt Aboriginal child abuse victims, something they can already do in certain circumstances.

However, Mr Gillespie later told SBS News he was taken out of context and that he wanted more adoptions for Indigenous and non-Indigenous children.

“I’ve never looked at life through the prism of race or culture,” he said.

Tennant creek has become the epicenter over a renewed attempt to link child abuse and Indigenous communities and calls for more child removals.

This morning in a statement, the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples said the claims by the minister and certain sections of the media, saying that STI rates were a result of abuse were wrong and had echoes of the NT Intervention.

Ms McCarthy said there were many reasons for STI infections and for reporters to assume they were because of abuse was naive and dangerous.

“That kind of reporting is very irresponsible if you are not speaking to the frontline health workers, to the Aboriginal community organisations, health organisations, which will be to explain in many circumstances the reason behind many particular rates of STIs,” she said.

National Congress said Indigenous communities and organisations were well aware of the issues in remote communities and had been working to resolve them, but pointed out that since the intervention that job had been made much harder.

“These peak organisations are aware of what is happening on the ground within Aboriginal communities in urban, regional and remote communities. Leaders from these organisations can never be said to be silent on child abuse, poor health and family breakdown. They are tireless advocates.”

“Aboriginal control of our own communities and the services in those communities have been greatly diminished. Appalling housing, health, education and employment statistics tell us that many Aboriginal people are experiencing great stress and hardship. They are struggling to take control of their lives.”

Additional reporting AAP

Part 2 Debate

 “Debates facilitated by the wrong people does little more than stir up emotions and reinforce negative stereotypes rather than focus on solutions.

Sexual abuse, child protection and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) among children are challenging topics to discuss. They are emotive issues for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike.

The current debate we are hearing however, is unhealthy and unhelpful.”

 Summer May Finlay is a Yorta Yorta woman, academic, writer and a public health consultant. Summer has worked in a number of different areas relating to Aboriginal health and social justice including a term as a NACCHO Policy Officer                                         Follow Summer @OnTopicAus

FROM NITV

This morning, I woke to the continuation of a national debate about the need to place Indigenous  children with white families because of sexual abuse. Twitter soon became aghast with the all-white panel Sunrise convened to discuss the Federal Assistant Minister for Children and Families David Gillespie’s comments about placing Indigenous children with non-Indigenous families.

Sexual abuse, child protection and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) among children are challenging topics to discuss. They are emotive issues for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike. The current debate we are hearing however, is unhealthy and unhelpful.

Gillespie has used the rates of STIs among young Indigenous people to justify his claims that the guidelines that that urge child protection agencies to place Indigenous children with Indigenous families, be relaxed.

To discuss the matter – ‘white families should be allowed to adopt Aboriginal children’ – Channel 7’s popular breakfast program brought together an entire non-Indigenous panel, none of whom had any experience or expertise in child protection matters or in Indigenous affairs.

What the panellists, Prue MacSween and Ben Davis (4GB) failed to mention was some of the most relevant information on the issue – there is a tenuous link between STIs and child abuse.

This was pointed out by two experts in the field, Professor James Ward from the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute and Peter Markey head of disease surveillance at the NT’s Centre for Disease Control, who spoke to the Sydney Morning Herald on this very subject just last week.

As a nation, is the solution to remove these young people from their families or should we be looking at why they are having sex at a young age, and why – as is evident – that they are not protecting themselves?

Most young Indigenous people with STIs are over the age of 14. And most Indigenous people 14 years +  contract STIs from having sex with their peers. As a nation, is the solution to remove these young people from their families or should we be looking at why they are having sex at a young age, and why – as is evident – that they are not protecting themselves?

Not only is the justification of removing Indigenous children with STIs questionable, but Sunrise’s panel made sensationalist and frankly incorrect claims that Indigenous children are currently not placed with white families.

Not only is the justification of removing Indigenous children with STIs questionable, but Sunrise’s panel made sensationalist and frankly incorrect claims that Indigenous children are currently not placed with white families.

A quick Google search would have demonstrated the error of this belief.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) figures show that 68 per cent of Indigenous children are placed in the care of Indigenous people, which logic tells you then that the remaining 32 per cent must be with non-Indigenous families.

With British and Irish being the most common ancestries in the Australian population, this further suggests that Aboriginal children are currently in care with some “white families”.

In the case of adoption of Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory (the region of these STI figures), government legislation makes clear that while adoption of Aboriginal children by other Aboriginal persons is given preference – as is placing the child with extended family or family in accordance with Aboriginal law – it does not rule out adoption by non-Indigenous families.

These legal principles have created on behalf of the devastating affects of the past that separated children from their families, communities and culture – not as Mr Davis puts it, “political correct nonsense”.

Sunrise would do itself a favour by at least hosting panellists who actually know what they are talking about, unless of course they don’t want facts to get in the way of a good story.

Like for instance, someone from the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC). SNAICC understands these issues more so than any person or organisation, or talkback radio presenter.

Not only are the claims children are only being placed with Indigenous families untrue, The Courier Mail’s reporting that Gillespie says Indigenous children should be placed with “white families”.

Does that mean only white Australian families are good enough, or can be trusted, to take care of Indigenous children? Adding another level to an already shaky structure, this Anglocentric view is a distraction from the real issues.

Such a publicised debate facilitated by the wrong people does little more than stir up emotions and reinforce negative stereotypes rather than focus on solutions.

So what are the real issues here? There are some Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory and other jurisdictions where STIs have reached endemic proportions. This is troubling, and action needs to be taken. However, this is not the case across all Indigenous communities and such a publicised debate facilitated by the wrong people does little more than stir up emotions and reinforce negative stereotypes rather than focus on solutions.

According to the AIHW, 50 per cent of Indigenous children who are removed from their families come from the lowest socio-economic brackets, with the main reason for removal, neglect. Demonstrating what has been widely researched and reported on, that neglect and poverty are linked.

However, even addressing only the symptoms (neglect and abuse), removing Aboriginal children from their families and communities wouldn’t bring the significant change required to assist our young people to lead healthy, happy lives.

To reduce STIs we need to focus on access to health services, diagnosis and treatment of STIs, health literacy, needs-based funding and sexual health education.

To reduce Indigenous children in out of home care we need investment in early intervention programs with at risk families and address poverty. A wealthy country like Australia should be focusing on eradicating poverty, not whether enough Indigenous children are being placed with white families.

Media sensationalism does little for Indigenous people and is more about the white saviour mentality. We need politicians to look beyond the surface to the root causes. We need cool heads and community driven solutions.

 

 

NACCHO Aboriginal #SexualHealth : No point in a one-size-fits-all fix for #STIs in #remote communities @AMSANTaus @CAACongress @Apunipima @TheAHCWA @atsihaw

” The varying incidence of sexually transmitted infections in the ­Aboriginal populations in remote Australia presents a number of challenges to the Australian health system.

The identification of persons with STIs is not straightforward — and sometimes extremely difficult — in remote areas.

The diseases range from rare and difficult to treat, to endemic and even more difficult to treat. Those that are easy to treat remain a problem because of the ways in which the infectious burden develops in these populations.

These are difficult, long-term issues that only a few dedicated services are tackling.

These ser­vices are not helped by prurient and muddled media interest, the ­Aboriginal men and women who for their own reasons deny the existence of these problems and retreat to life-threatening but comfortable slogans, and least of all, the negligence of successive governments whose responsible leaders have responded too slowly and with too few resources for an effective response by the frontline workers.”

Marcia Langton is Redmond Barry Distinguished Professor, Australian Indigenous Studies, at the University of Melbourne.

Read over 38 NACCHO Aboriginal Sexual  Health articles published over past 6 years

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

It is wrong to conflate the incidence of STIs with sexual abuse. To make this clear: it is not the case that all cases of STIs in ­minors are the result of sexual contact or abuse.

The rush to recommend removal of Aboriginal children from their families is an unwarranted response, and has become the catchcry of those building their careers on serious health issues that have become salacious fodder for the media and very significant threats to developing protocols for treating these continuing disease threats to ­extremely vulnerable people.

The question of whether to remove children is secondary to the question of immediate medical treatment.

Ascertaining how the STIs are being spread — by interviewing children — is the work of professionals and needs to be undertaken with caution and care.

Some proportion of the sexual activity involves only children and not adults. When only children are involved, different steps need to be taken.

When adults are involved in sexual activities with children, a different set of steps must be under­taken. Is the adult offender living in the household? Visiting the household? In what circumstances does the offender gain access to the child?

It would be ridiculous to have a one-size-fits-all approach to this very difficult problem. Medicos working in the Territory under the Northern Territory Emergency Response schemes were well aware of these problems but unable to speak because of the issues of confidentiality of patients and maintaining the confidence of ­patients and communities to present to clinics.

The rates of STIs among Aboriginal children in the NT must be treated as a medical matter for professionals. In the absence of a Centre for Disease Control (as recommended by the Australian Medical Association), the Office of Health Protection in the federal Department of Health has some responsibility for communicable diseases.

If I were in a responsible position, I would ask the Office of Health Protection to co-operate with the ­Aboriginal medical ser­vices bodies, such as Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory and the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation and the Northern Territory and Queensland health departments, and put together medical teams to test and treat Aboriginal children in the affected areas in the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia.

All children in school should have sex education and STI education, and the educational material should be in their own languages. They and their parents need to be aware of the consequences of untreated STIs: infertility, mortality, brain damage and others. Other infectious diseases, such as trachoma, have been treated with similar approaches involving better co-ordination of existing services.

The federal, Northern Territory and Queensland governments are negligent in the extreme in allowing this situation to worsen over the past 10 years. It has been reported regularly and extensively in the past decade by medical professionals from various health entities, including the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, and the responsible ministers and officers run for cover rather than taking the necessary steps to treat children for these diseases.

In this context, I have previously said that the complaints from some Aboriginal male leaders about being labelled universally as abusers should be ignored and the complicity of the indigenous sector in protecting their sensitivities and strange complaints that result should also be ignored.

If they had taken positions of protecting children rather than outrage at John Howard’s nasty and ridiculous blame game in 2007, we would not have the increased rates (also greatly under-reported) that are reported now.

Blatant denialism has contributed to this terrible situation.

Marcia Langton is Redmond Barry Distinguished Professor, Australian Indigenous Studies, at the University of Melbourne.

NACCHO Aboriginal #SexualHealth #GetTested : #Syphilis epidemic claims life of Cape York baby for first time in 5 years : Commitment and investment needed to address epidemic

THE syphilis epidemic in the Far North which has claimed the life of a baby is tragic for our Aboriginal and Islander communities and is a major concern for both Apunipima and our partner health organisations in the North.

Rates of infectious syphilis in indigenous communities across Australia in 2016 were five times that of non-indigenous people, with rates in the Far North reflecting this.

There was a need for constant surveillance and resources to ensure any increases in STI rates in the Far North were being addressed in a timely way.”

Apunipima Cape York Health Council public health advisor Dr Mark Wenitong said the stillborn baby was a rare, but tragic consequence of high rates of the infection see Cairns Post Media coverage Part 1 below

Read over 37 Aboriginal Sexual Health articles published over the past 6 years

We are extremely concerned about the growing number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are contracting these infections.

The prevalence of syphilis is highest in rural Indigenous populations and in some parts of Australia, the disease is now endemic.

“Pregnant women are particularly at risk because if they contract syphilis it can result in serious and sometimes fatal complications for their baby. It shouldn’t be this way, we can prevent and treat these infections through routine screening and treatment programs.

We understand that the Commonwealth has developed an Action Plan to deliver short term responses to high rates of syphilis, with a focus on increasing testing, treatment, education, antenatal care and supporting an appropriately trained workforce.

The recent death from congenital syphilis underlies the need to fund and implement this Action Plan without further delay “

Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) President, Dr Catherine Yelland see full press release Part 2 below

Doctors are urging the Federal Government to make a long-term investment in sexual health programs and services, including prevention, testing and treatment initiatives to address the ongoing syphilis outbreak affecting northern parts of Australia.

Part 1 Syphilis epidemic claims life of FNQ baby for first time in 5 years

THE syphilis epidemic in the Far North has claimed the life of a baby for the first time in the region in five years, with the amount of cases doubling in the past two years.

Cairns Post

New figures from the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service show the amount of cases of infectious syphilis in the Cairns health district has continued to rise in the past 12 months.

So far this year, there has been 12 cases of infectious syphilis in the health district, which is already higher than the year-to-date average.

CHHHS public health medical officer Dr Annie Preston-Thomas confirmed a notification of a congenital stillborn baby in the Far North, but was unable to give further details due to confidentiality.

“These cases are rare with only one other case occurring in the Cairns and Hinterland region since 2013,” she said.

“This relates to an ongoing syphilis outbreak among young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in North Queensland. Syphilis infection during pregnancy can cause congenital syphilis, with serious outcomes for the baby.”

Dr Wenitong said there was a need for constant surveillance and resources to ensure any increases in STI rates in the Far North were being addressed in a timely way.

“There is a comprehensive response to STIs happening in our Far North region, however more needs to be done at the primary health level, with increased resources and with more effective cross-cultural approaches to ensure better access to screening for this sensitive issue,” he said.

“One of the screening programs is carried out by Apunipima’s maternal health teams, where 95 per cent of antenatal women have the test to screen out infection.”

Part 2 Commitment and investment needed to address syphilis epidemic says RACP

Doctors are urging the Federal Government to make a long-term investment in sexual health programs and services, including prevention, testing and treatment initiatives to address the ongoing syphilis outbreak affecting northern parts of Australia.

It follows confirmation earlier this month of another congenital syphilis death in Far North Queensland, the sixth fatality from congenital syphilis that has occurred in Northern Australia since 2011.

 

As detailed in its pre-budget submission, the RACP is recommending long-term investment in sexual health programs to accompany the Action Plan. It also wants to see a funded implementation plan for the Fifth National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Blood-Borne Viruses and Sexually Transmitted Infections Strategy.

Dr Yelland said there needs to be a greater investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sexual health services to improve people’s sexual health in the long-term.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people must be pivotal in the development and implementation of these strategies. They are the ones who understand the health issues impacting their communities and can help ensure the services delivered are culturally safe.”

There were 28 new notifications of syphilis in North Queensland during October 2017, up from 12 notifications in the same period last year.

Sexual health crisis: Syphilis epidemic rages as doctors sound alarm on rising HIV rates

FROM WEBSITE

Since 2011 a syphilis epidemic has swept across northern Australia, spreading across multiple states and hitting Indigenous communities hard.

Figures obtained by NITV News show the rate of infections is rising fast.

Now, stretched health services are warning a rise in HIV cases could be the next epidemic to hit the region.

By Robert Burton-Bradley  Source: NITV News. 20 Oct 2017

Indigenous Australia is in the grip of a serious health crisis as skyrocketing rates of syphilis have seen five babies die and hundreds of new cases appear. Now, rates of HIV are on the rise too. Doctors and health professionals working on the frontline have said more resources are urgently needed to stop the outbreak which is now in its seventh year.

Professor James Ward from the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute told NITV News the situation was all the more concerning because it was preventable.

“We had a very good opportunity to eliminate it, we missed it, and now we’re in this situation,” he said. “It is unacceptable in this day and age to have any congenital death related to an STI in a country like Australia, where we’ve got very good testing and very good treatment for these STIs.”

“If this had occurred in non-Aboriginal communities there would have been a national outcry.”

Figures obtained by NITV News reveal that as of August this year, Queensland has had almost 1000 cases of syphilis among its Indigenous population since the outbreak began there in 2011. The Northern Territory has seen a dramatic rise in infections more than doubling from 229 cases last year to 588 cases since 2013. Western Australia has had 134 cases since 2014, mainly in the Kimberley region, and the now the epidemic has spread to South Australia, which has had 26 cases since late last year. In most cases, the victims are under 29-years-old. There have been five cases of babies dying after being born with congenital syphilis and an unknown number of babies born with congenital abnormalities.

Cairns is the epicentre of the epidemic with the highest number of cases. Cairns Sexual Health Service Director, Dr Darren Russell, said he has never seen a syphilis outbreak like this before.

“It is concerning. We don’t know where it will end up, but it’s worse than it ever has been and the rates around the country are increasing, not decreasing,” he told NITV News. “We’ve seen is this incredible resurgence of syphilis and now we are seeing HIV where we have never seen it before. There is real concern.”

“Cairns and surrounds is really the main area of concern. In North Queensland itself, up to August 2017, there have been 941 cases and five deaths of babies from congenital syphilis.”

“There is a lot of work going on to try and prevent further deaths, but it is very difficult when you have so many cases and you tend to get syphilis in young sexually active people.”

“Initially, you can talk about an epidemic where an infection gets into a community and then what happens after a time is the infection can become endemic, more established in that community – that’s probably what is going on now in the Cairns area and the top end of the Northern Territory, and possibly even Townsville too”,” he said.

He warns of rising HIV notifications in and around Cairns, which he says could be linked to the syphilis epidemic. Now, there has been a spike in HIV infections, particularly in the Indigenous population, says Dr Russell.

“The syphilis epidemic started in 2011 and there was always a concern that HIV could piggyback on that because HIV and syphilis tend to go together,” he said. “Around Australia, HIV notifications in Indigenous people used to be about the same as non-Indigenous people, but they are now twice the rate and it looks like they are continuing to increase.”

In Cairns, it is up to 50 per cent of infections, said Russell. “I don’t think we know at this stage if it is too late”

A public health alert sent to Queensland health workers last month warned the rising rates of HIV are tied to the syphilis outbreak and that a majority of the cases are among younger Indigenous people, under 40 years of age.

It came after an emergency HIV roundtable of around 80 clinicians and community leaders to discuss the crisis in Cairns earlier this week.

Professor Ward, a sexual health expert, who attended the conference as a speaker said the number of Indigenous HIV infections is not huge, but warns that could change unless extra resources are brought in.

“It used to be relatively stable. We’d have say 20 (Indigenous) cases a year nationally, we’re almost double that now, perhaps, even more, when you look at the most recent data, and that’s very problematic because once it reaches a tipping point, it will move into an endemic state and I think now is the time to put lots of effort into preventing HIV.”

The other issue, said Dr Russell, is that diseases like syphilis and HIV can be sleeper infections and people could be unaware for lengthy periods of time they have been exposed, and in turn, pass it on to others.

“One of the problems is we don’t know what we don’t know, there will be individuals who haven’t been diagnosed yet, and if they are not aware they have HIV, then onward transmissions will continue.”

“I think we have always been concerned in Australia that there would be an epidemic of HIV in the Indigenous community and we’d almost eliminated infectious syphilis a few years ago – what we’ve seen is this incredible resurgence of syphilis and now we are seeing HIV where we have never seen it before. There is real concern at this stage and we don’t know where the HIV epidemic is going to go, whether it will continue or be brought under control.”

How did this happen?

A decade ago, syphilis in Queensland was on track to being eradicated, but then in 2010, the number of cases diagnosed started drastically increasing. By 2011, it was being called an epidemic. By 2014 it had spread into the Northern Territory, before moving into the Kimberley region of WA and reaching South Australia last year. Many of the cases are in remote Indigenous communities.

Indigenous Australians are six times more likely to catch syphilis than the non-Indigenous population. Staggeringly, this increases to 132 times higher in remote areas. Rates of HIV infection are twice as high for Indigenous people than the rest of the population.

“These things take you by surprise, there is no way of pre-empting some of this kind of outbreaks but a fast response is really necessary.”

Dr Russell warns that HIV is now looming as a follow up threat. He points to Canada’s experience, where Indigenous people account for as much as 11 per cent of new HIV infections, despite making up just 4.3 per cent of the total population.

“We appear to be heading in that direction,” he warned.

Dr Mark Wenitong, Public Health Medical Advisor at the Apunipima Cape York Health Council, said a large part of the blame resides with the drastic cuts to public health spending made by the incoming government of former Queensland Premier Campbell Newman in early 2012, and a failure by health services to recognise the threat early on.

“Very unfortunate that five women have lost their babies but there have been a number of other babies born with congenital syphilis abnormalities which is problematic and why we are desperate to get message out there for that target age group.” said Professor James Ward.

“The thing is there were resources going into North Queensland through the health department, but after the election, that got cut a fair bit, and from the perspective of primary health care, that really did leave a hole in education. Screening and particularly sexual health teams, that has definitely had an impact,” he said.

Dr Wenitong said this compounded the already large challenges health providers face in the Indigenous community in an area like Cape York.

“There are limited resources because everything is a priority in Aboriginal communities because of the prevalence of a lot of different illnesses,” he said.

Dr Russell said previous outbreaks of STI’s like HIV had largely bypassed these communities, meaning that some were caught off guard.

“It’s a whole range of things. You have a population that is quite marginalized and disadvantaged, has poor access to health care, you’ve also got a group in whom traditionally there hasn’t been a lot of HIV, so the health services aren’t really geared up for thinking about HIV and testing for it.”

Dr Wenitong conceded the outbreak had now spread beyond the control of some health providers.

“These things take you by surprise, there is no way of pre-empting some of this kind of outbreaks but a fast response is really necessary.”

“I think one of the things we feel is a bit of a sense of failure in a way, that things like syphilis which is preventable and controllable, that that got away from us across the Top End of Australia.

What is being done

In response to growing calls for action, the Government has committed more resources, says Liberal senator Dean Smith, who is chair of the Chair of the Parliamentary Liaison Group for HIV/AIDS, Blood Borne Viruses and Sexually Transmitted Infections.

“The evidence of the alarming disparity in the rates of STIs between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians is very credible.

“I am aware that over the last four years, $15 million has been spent on a variety of specific STI and BBV prevention and education activities across northern Australia, including  trialling “point-of-care” testing for certain diseases and surveying the sexual health and lifestyle behaviours of Aboriginal and Torres Islander communities,” he tells NITV News.

He said everyone needs to be worried by the current crisis and urged his own Government to do more.

“As an immediate action, I firmly believe there must be a stronger response from the Federal Government and that it must take a more proactive leadership role in coordinating the activities of State and Territory Governments on the issue.”

Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt said the government was aware of the problem and is taking steps to combat the spread of syphilis and HIV.

“In August, I raised the syphilis issue with the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council’s (AHMAC) Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), which is currently intensifying the national response to the current outbreak, including short-term actions to reduce infection,” Minister Wyatt told NITV News in a statement.

“A governance group has been established and will report on the proposed action plan to the Health Minister and myself in December 2017. The response will also focus on a long-term and sustainable response to combating other blood-borne viruses and sexually transmitted infections.

“The Commonwealth continues to fund targeted activities and a national network of approximately 140 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs) and around 40 other providers to deliver comprehensive, culturally appropriate primary health care services, including sexual health and maternal health services.”

A new awareness campaign called Young Deadly and Syphilis Free has been rolled out over the last few months targeting Indigenous communities and urging regular resting and treatment of infections.

This week, the Queensland Government announced an expansion of the number of places for people to PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) a medication that can dramatically reduce the risk of HIV transmission in HIV negative people.

Queensland Health Minister, Cameron Dick, acknowledged working with communities would be crucial in combating the further spread of the outbreak.

“If we are to achieve our shared goal of the virtual elimination of HIV in Queensland by 2020, we must reach out to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in every community.”

A spokesman for Queensland Health said the government was committing $15.8 million over three years to support the actions of the North Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sexually Transmissible Infections Action Plan 2016-2021, in addition to millions being spent more broadly on sexual health.

Despite the promises of increased resourcing, the problem, more than seven years after the first outbreak in Queensland, remains for the time being.

Professor Ward said he believed the slow response was in part because the affected population was Indigenous.

“If this had occurred in non-Aboriginal communities there would have been a national outcry.”

Dr Russell from Cairns Sexual Health says it may already be too late to resolve the outbreak anytime soon.

“That’s the million dollar question. I don’t think we know at this stage if it is too late, but clearly, there are worrying signs and it is certainly not controlled at this stage

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

Ahiv

 ” 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.

file-5

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