VIDEO: Could Queensland lead the way in eliminating HIV
QUEENSLAND is in line to lead the nation in becoming the first country in the world to put a stop to HIV transmissions.
That was the challenge set as part of the HIV Foundation Queensland Treatment and Prevention Roadshow which visited Rockhampton this week - but the state has a challenger in British Columbia, Vancouver to lead the world in HIV prevention.
The BC Centre for Excellence in HIV AIDS brought their research and findings to regional Queensland in a bid to help individuals stay healthy but also help to prevent transmissions of HIV.
And with 200 new confirmed cases in Queensland every year, it's a tough challenge to meet.
Royal Brisbane and Womens' Hospital infections disease physician and HIV Foundation Queensland board member Dr Andrew Redmond said although there was no vaccine or cure for HIV, the potential to stop the spread was still achievable.
He said a focus of the roadshow was to "help people to start conversations about HIV and not be frightened to get a HIV test and not to be frightened offer a HIV test".
"Even though we don't have a vaccine and even though we don't have a cure we can stop HIV transmission in Queensland and it would be really exciting if Australia could be the first country in the world to be able to stop HIV transmissions," he said.
"We think it's really important for us to be having conversations all over the regions of Queensland because this is an exciting time in HIV and an opportunity for us with the new technologies available to stop HIV transmission in Queensland."
BC centre for excellence in HIV AIDS assistant director Dr Rolando Barrios Queensland had embraced the idea as treatment as prevention and two years ago the state signed a memorandum of understanding with the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV AIDS.
"We certainly want to see more people be tested for HIV and know their HIV status, whether it be positive or negative,” Dr Barrios said.
"We would also like to see more clinicians engage in offering tests and supporting individuals who test positive and initiate them on treatment to control the HIV virus.
"And also the in not distance future see a decline on the new HIV transmissions in (Queensland) as we have in Vancouver."
The challenge was set by BC Centre for Excellence in HIV AIDS director of operations Irene Day who said putting a stop to HIV transmissions was a "win for politicians, the community and the public purse".
"I'd like to accept the challenge that instead of Australia to be the first country to be HIV and AIDS free I'd like to challenge Canada to do that," she said.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities in focus
SEXUALLY transmissible infections and high rates of drug use put Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities at risk of increased HIV rates.
That is according to South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute head of infectious disease research Aboriginal health Associate Professor James Ward who said the the HIV Foundation had "great wisdom" to include information on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health in Queensland as part of the roadshow.
Mr Ward said the interception of sexually transmissible infections and drug use put Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in line for a HIV outbreak.
"Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Queensland make up a large proportion of the overall population in Australia, so it's the second highest state with aboriginal people," he said.
"So this population is particularly vulnerable to HIV for a number of reasons, one is there is a high background prevalence of sexually transmissible infections, if you have one of those it makes it much easier for HIV to be transmitted.
"And the second issue Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have particularly a high risk of HIV infection for is among people who are injecting drugs.
"So those two issues come together and create a stage really for HIV to escalate in that population."
He said the roadshow was a valuable tool in providing a platform to work with regional Queensland health providers in tackling HIV transmissions.
It is recommended people aged 16 to 29-years-old are tested annually.
"(We want to) really get these messages out about how they need to be part of these new advances in HIV medicine to get to zero in our population," Mr Ward said.
"This is the start of the conversation.
"We don't want to let this go out of control."