A federal advisory committee of infectious-disease experts is recommending that Australia re-invigorate its domestic HIV prevention efforts. The draft strategy advice is in response to what the committee said is a resurgent epidemic among gay men as well as to emerging epidemics among travelers to high-risk countries and among Aboriginal and Torres Islander communities.
Besides a major campaign targeting gay men, Australia should also prioritize migrants from and visitors to high-risk regions including Africa and Southeast Asia, said the ministerial advisory committee on blood-borne viruses and STDs. HIV could also spread rapidly among indigenous Australians due to higher STD rates and IV drug use, it said.
New HIV diagnoses have grown 38 percent between 1999, when Australia recorded 718, and 2008, when the country had 995 reports, according to federal data released last month. Some of the increases might be attributed to a reduction in HIV prevention campaigns, said Michael Kidd, chair of the advisory committee.
"It's certainly true that we had a reduction, particularly in targeted prevention activities, about a decade ago and that following that we saw significant increases in HIV infection rates in parts of the country," Kidd said. While some areas that continued prevention efforts saw success, "we need to keep going with the prevention messages all the time because there are young people coming through now who might change aspects of their behavior that put them at risk of HIV and other blood-borne viruses."
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