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HIV rates in Indigenous Australians disproportionately high

Date posted: 16 November 2016

New national statistics detailed in the Bloodborne virus and sexually transmissible infections in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: Annual surveillance report 2016 has shown that Indigenous Australians continue to be disproportionately represented in HIV and sexually transmitted infection (STI) rates compared to the wider population.

The report found that reported cases of HIV in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men, who make up three percent of Australia's population, doubled in the past five years, from 6.2 percent to 12.4 percent. Meanwhile, non-Indigenous rates of HIV fell by 12 percent.

The research found more cases of HIV in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population were attributed to heterosexual contact and intravenous drug use than in non-Indigenous people.

The South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute's Aboriginal Health Advisor, Associate Professor James Ward, said the emphasis on treatment and prevention of HIV for the wider population had not reached remote Australia. 'These test and treat strategies probably haven't filtered into primary health care providers for Aboriginal people which are predominantly Aboriginal medical services,' he said. 'Given that there's a high morbidity already in the community and lots of medications already being taken for people who are quite unwell...trying to conceptualise how someone in the Aboriginal community might take a drug to prevent them getting an illness has some contentious issues and is something we need to work through.'

A higher proportion of STIs among Indigenous people was also reported, with the rate of gonorrhoea infection ten times higher than the wider population. The report found a 94 per cent decline in gonorrhoea cases among non-Indigenous people while Indigenous Australians only recorded a drop of 22 per cent.

Source: ABC, SBS, ASHM, The Kirby Institute

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Last updated: 16 November 2016
 
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Australia's National Research Centre on AOD Workforce Development National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre National Drug Research Institute