Australia could become the first country to end HIV transmission with extra government funding of only $32.5 million a year, according to a new plan from a leading Australian HIV organisation.
The Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) has released its HIV Blueprint, which charts a course to stop around 2,025 HIV transmissions in the next three years.
AFAO says the plan, which the organisation will take to Canberra today, would require additional annual investment of $32.5 million but argues the cost will be offset in just a couple of years.
According to modelling by researchers at the Burnet Institute, $82 million would be saved from the costs of providing treatment and support by 2020 and in the longer term the savings from the averted infections would exceed $2 billion.
The Blueprint has been endorsed by 29 community, clinical and research organisations.
AFAO CEO Darryl O’Donnell said Australia is at “an inflection point” and the capacity to end HIV transmission is within reach.
“It makes extraordinary financial sense. If we invest to end HIV transmission now, we will enjoy huge net savings over time. The compounding benefit over the lifetime of these averted transmissions is more than $2 billion,” he said.
“Many thousands of Australians will be spared the stigma and discrimination that continues to flourish in the shadows of this virus.”
He said a range of new technology is becoming available, but unless the benefits are promoted the epidemic won’t be defeated.
“There is no single solution to HIV transmission and medicine alone won’t end the epidemic. It requires investment in prevention, testing and treatment programs and workforce support,” he said.
“HIV community organisations have the expertise and motivation to provide governments with a powerful ally in ending an epidemic.”
AFAO’s HIV Blueprint highlights the additional effort needed to end HIV transmission in Australia, which according to the organisation requires investment in:
– developing national education programs for local delivery by peer based organisations;
– increasing the focus on ‘hidden’ populations at risk, including people with late diagnoses or unsuspected HIV;
– communicating the benefits of the once-a-day HIV prevention pill, PrEP;
– promoting HIV rapid testing and, once registered, HIV self-testing;
– developing a media and communication strategy to promote safe sex and testing among Australians having sex while travelling;
– implementing a sustained HIV response among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people;
– improving the expertise and knowledge of the HIV workforce;
– unlocking big data from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and Medicare Benefits Schedule and improving program evaluation.