HIV Strategy

HIV Strategy

(Question Without Notice, 1 June 2016, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)

I direct my question to the Minister for Health. What action is the New South Wales Government taking to end HIV?

Minister for Health Response: 

I thank the member for Sydney for asking that question. I acknowledge the work that he has done with many other members from across the political spectrum on this very important issue. The member is often at events at which we talk about the Government's latest strategies that are designed to end the transmission of HIV by 2020. The NSW HIV Strategy that I released in 2012 led the world. It was based on three principles. Early and frequent testing must be undertaken to identify those who were HIV positive, and early treatment became a preventative measure because it reduced the viral load and those people were no longer infectious. What have we achieved since then? The progress has been remarkable. I congratulate everyone who has worked in this field.

There has been collaboration between non-government organisations, ACON, public sexual health centres, the Commonwealth Government, general practitioners, and all of the community organisations involved in this area. The strategy has had wonderful bipartisan support, as always happens in this field, and New South Wales is now leading the world. This was a bold strategy when it was first released. I took the risk because the science was clear that we could achieve this. I took it to Melbourne for the AIDS congress in 2014, and every State and Territory government and the Commonwealth Government signed it. It is now the basis of every State and Territory strategy. It was also picked up by many health authorities in other countries. I recently took part in a roundtable discussion, based on our strategy, in Beijing under the auspices of the World Health Organisation, and the participants were very interested in what we had achieved. We have made remarkable progress.

The latest statistics available relate to 2015. They indicate that almost 500,000 HIV tests were undertaken in New South Wales that year, which is an increase of 77 per cent on the previous year and nearly 20 per cent more than were undertaken in 2012. More than 45,000 HIV tests were conducted in New South Wales public sexual health clinics, which is an increase of 32 per cent on the previous year. HIV tests of gay and homosexually active people in New South Wales public sexual health clinics increased by 64 per cent compared to the previous year. In addition, advances in treatment have been groundbreaking. Prior to the introduction of this strategy, treatment was delayed until people reached a certain level of infection. Research and evidence indicated that early treatment was the best approach.

Since then, 92 per cent of people with HIV receiving care in public HIV services were undergoing treatment in 2015. That is an astonishing figure. In addition, 82 per cent of people newly diagnosed with HIV in New South Wales in the first half of 2015 had commenced treatment within six months. It was recently announced that the Government would extend the trial of pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV negative people at high risk of becoming infected. The trial is being conducted by the Kirby Institute and already we have engaged more than 1,200 people. The target is 3,700 by the end of the year. It is estimated that at that point there will be a 50 per cent reduction in HIV infection and transmission in the community. That is why I am confident that we will meet our target of virtually ending the transmission of HIV by 2020. As I said to the media at that launch, and as I often say to those who work so tirelessly in this space, as health Minister there are many things that I can say I have achieved but it will be my greatest achievement if I can end the transmission of this terrible disease, HIV, by 2020.

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