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2014 International Indigenous Pre-conference on HIV & AIDS -

Call for greater recognition of Indigenous people in international HIV efforts

Indigenous Australians face inacceptable HIV risk

Wednesday, 23 July 2014 (Melbourne): At 10.30 am on Wednesday, A/Professor James Ward, Deputy Head of Aboriginal Health at the Baker Institute IDI will be first Indigenous person to present on Indigenous peoples' issues in a main plenary session at an International AIDS Conference.

Ward's address will highlight the invisibility of Indigenous people in international agency documents and call for their public recognition as a key population at risk of HIV, alongside other key groups.

"Of course being Indigenous doesn't place someone at special risk of HIV per se," he says. "It is the inequalities of health and the social determinants of health that profoundly affect Indigenous people, placing them in special and urgent need."

Populations who are identified as being at particular risk for HIV in all global HIV strategies include men who have sex with men, sex workers, transgender people and people who inject drugs.

"Indigenous populations barely rate a mention, yet they face the same issues as identified key populations. This is a problem. If Indigenous people don't see themselves in these documents then they don't see HIV."

This comes just days after the launch of the Eora Action Plan - a call for Australia to step up its response to HIV in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations in the wake of what has been described as unacceptable risk factors.

Although Australia's response to HIV in Indigenous Australians has been positive, new studies show:

•  Higher rates of HIV are diagnosed among Aboriginal women and heterosexual people compared to non-Indigenous people;

•  The proportion of new HIV cases attributable to injecting drug use in 2013 was 1 2 times higher in Aboriginal people compared to the proportion reported in the non-Indigenous population and 3 % of young Aboriginal people nationally reported having injected drugs in the last year (whereas its estimated that 1% of the Australian population have injected drugs);

•  Gay Aboriginal men and men who have sex with men have a higher number of risk factors such as unprotected sex with casual partners, and less condom use compared to non-Indigenous gay men;

•  In remote Aboriginal communities, almost half of young women and a third of young men are infected with either chlamydia, gonorrhoea or trichomonas .  The risk of HIV transmission is significantly increased in the presence of an existing STI.

"The ground is set for HIV to escalate," warns Ward. "A failure to scale up our actions will result in an unmanageable epidemic. We can either act now and adapt our response as HIV is doing in our communities, or face an unmanageable epidemic."


About James Ward

Associate Professor James Ward is an Indigenous health researcher with more than 20 year' experience working within Aboriginal health and communities in Australia. He is a descendent of the Pitjantajarra and Nurrunga clans of central and south Australia and has a strong interest in building capabilities in communities to enable self-determination and control of Aboriginal peoples' own health. He has a strong background in community-based research in urban, regional and rural Australia, specialising in sexual and adolescent health. He joined Baker IDI in 2012 from the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales, where he was a Senior Lecturer and Program Head of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research Program. James provides advice to government committees, including the Federal Ministerial Advisory Committee on BBVs and STIs and the Northern Territory Government Sexual Health Advisory Group .

About the Eora Action Plan

The Eora Action Plan sets targets that go above and beyond Australia's newly released National Strategies for blood-borne viruses and sexually transmissible infections . It calls to:

  1. Reduce new HIV infections by 50%
  2. Eliminate all mother to child transmissions of HIV
  3. Ensure antiretroviral treatments are available and accessible and correctly utilised by 80%
  4. Move toward a 50% reduction in other STIs in endemic communities and
  5. Reduce the rates of sharing injecting equipment by 80%


Injecting Drug Use

•  3% of young Aboriginal people nationally reported having injected drugs in the last year (whereas its estimated that 1% of the Australian population have injected drugs)

HIV in Indigenous Australians

  • Prevalence of HIV in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community is at 0.15% - similar to non-Indigenous Australians, however there is a higher rate of diagnosis among Aboriginal and Torres and Torres Strait Islander population than the non-Indigenous population.
  • In 2013 there were 26 new notifications of HIV in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.
  • Overall there are approximately 480 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people diagnosed with HIV in Australia.
  • Most HIV diagnosis in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population occur in urban and regional centres.
  • A greater proportion of HIV cases in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community come from injecting drug use (24% vs. 2%in non-Indigenous Australians).
  • Women- HIV cases diagnosed at a rate 5 times that of non-Indigenous women.
  • A greater proportion of HIV cases in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community are in heterosexual people (32% vs. 26%).
  • A slightly higher proportion of HIV cases at diagnoses were reported as a late diagnosis or with advanced HIV diseases in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cases (33.4% vs. 31.5%).
  • Gay and other MSM made up 66% of the new HIV cases in non-Indigenous Australians but only 24% in Indigenous Australians.

STIs in Remote Communities

Rates of STIs in Indigenous Australians are reported at between 6 and 30 times higher than non-Indigenous Australians. STRIVE was a recent study of STI prevalence in Indigenous Australians in 68 remote communities in NT, QLD and WA.

•  People aged 16-34 years were tested for Chlamydia, gonorrhoea and trichomonas

•  13,480 patients tested in total

•  Highest rates of infection found in young people aged 16-19 years:

•  33% of males had 1 of the 3 infections

•  49% of females had 1 of the 3 infections

•  Overall prevalence:

•  Chlamydia 14% vs 4-5% in non-Indigenous communities

•  gonorrhoea 11% vs less than 1% in non-Indigenous communities

•  trichomonas 17% vs less than 1% in non-Indigenous communities


18-19 July International Indigenous Pre-Conference on HIV and AIDS

The International Indigenous Pre-Conference on HIV and AIDS is a prelude to AIDS 2014 and will be held in Australia for the first time ever in 2014. It provides Indigenous leaders an outlet for sharing, exchanging, and gaining experiences and knowledge on HIV and AIDS to promote hope and change within their own communities. Journalists can register for free.

17-25 July Art Exhibition

Nine pieces of art featuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists - one from each Australian state and territory plus one from the Torres Strait Islands - are being commissioned as part of the conferences. Each artwork will incorporate HIV into its representation and reflect the communities the artists represent. The completed project will showcase the geographical, cultural and community diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities. The exhibition will be shown at the International Indigenous Pre-Conference and in the Global Village.
Sydney and Melbourne

20-25 July International AIDS Conference AIDS 2014

The world's largest medical conference: Approximately 14,000 people will descend on Melbourne for this conference and the numerous cultural events that take place alongside it.

21-24 July Djamabanna Ngargee Birrarung Marr: Indigenous Peoples Networking Zone at the AIDS2014 Global Village

This event is free to the public and will include dance, art, video installations and more.
"This is one of the deadliest opportunities to come down and checkout some local, national and international culture at the Indigenous Peoples Networking Zone. This kind of opportunity only comes around once in a blue moon, so let's makes sure we as first nations people of this country make a big impact and have leave everyone walking away with a wealth of knowledge about our culture and our people."

For media enquires contact: Petrana Lorenz
1 0405 158 636

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