Budget lights a path to virtual elimination of HIV transmission

Health Equity Matters

The Albanese Government has made a strong stride towards the virtual elimination of HIV transmission with tonight’s $43.9 million Budget commitment to expand access to PrEP, roll out HIV self-testing, deepen the connection with culturally diverse communities and provide additional resources for the HIV workforce, according to Health Equity Matters, Australia’s HIV and LGBTIQA+ health federation.

The funding will support the national roll-out of self testing vending machines, which have already proved successful in reaching communities that need to test more frequently. A pilot health education program, seeking to better inform people from culturally diverse communities about how to prevent HIV transmission will also be established. And the successful HIV Online Learning Australia program which provides important resources to the HIV workforce will be continued.

Funding for Australia’s peak HIV organisations, Health Equity Matters and NAPWHA, will also be restored.

The funding will be allocated in the 2024-25 Budget and is a first step to providing the resources needed to achieve virtual elimination of HIV transmission. The Budget allocation reflects the findings of the HIV Taskforce, which was led by Health Minister, the Hon Mark Butler and the Assistant Health Minister, the Hon Ged Kearney.

“Australia now has the potential to become the first country to achieve virtual elimination of HIV,” said Mark Orr AM, President of Health Equity Matters.

“This Budget commitment lights a bright path, focusing on Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), testing, treatment, and awareness. It leverages the robust and impactful collaboration between community, healthcare professionals, researchers, and government that has been instrumental in Australia’s success since the beginning of the HIV epidemic.

“With a clear direction in place, we eagerly anticipate collaborating with the Government to achieve the previously unthinkable reward of ending an epidemic.”

The most recent Kirby Institute HIV surveillance report revealed diagnoses in Australia have decreased by half over the past decade and remained consistent over the last year, with 555 diagnoses in 2022. However, it highlighted minor increases among heterosexual individuals, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and in certain states and territories.

“When attempting to overcome an epidemic, the final stretch will be the most challenging,” Health Equity Matters chief executive, Dash Heath-Paynter said. “This is why the Government’s commitment to ending HIV transmission is so crucial. We must maintain our momentum.”

/Public Release.