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International News

Australia: Fears for Aborigines in Spread of HIV

October 28, 2010

HIV is increasingly being spread among indigenous Australians by injection drug users (IDUs), according to a presentation at the recent Australasian HIV/AIDS conference in Sydney. At least one indigenous HIV researcher, however, challenged this interpretation.

Twenty percent of HIV infections among indigenous Australians were IDU-linked, compared with 3 percent among non-indigenous Australians, said Don Baxter, executive director of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organizations.


Higher rates of HIV among IDUs could quickly transition into heterosexual and homosexual transmissions among aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, said Baxter. Sexual transmissions could be fueled among indigenous people because of the already high rate of STDs, which facilitate HIV's spread, and the lack of access to health care, he said.

"Because injecting is a much more efficient mode of HIV transmission, you can have rapid outbreaks which then spread further through sexual contact," said Baxter. "It is a very common pattern in epidemics around the world where there are [IDUs]."

However, James Ward, the head of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health programs at the National Center in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research, warned against sensationalizing the issue.

"There have been increasing numbers of [IDUs], but that doesn't equate to increasing HIV," Ward said. "I don't think we should be stigmatizing Aboriginal people as acquiring HIV because they are [IDUs]." The HIV rate has been stable despite the higher STD rate, he said.

Back to other news for October 2010

Adapted from:
Sydney Morning Herald
10.21.2010; Amy Corderoy

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
More News on HIV/AIDS in Australia

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