Australia Forum on Sexuality, Education and Health
The inaugural meeting of the Australia Forum on Sexuality, Education and Health (AFSEH) took place in Melbourne on Monday, 19 November. Altogether, over 60 teachers, researchers, program specialists and activists attended the event, representing well over 30 different academic institutions and community groups.
The Forum aims to break down boundaries in work on sexualities, education and health, and to provide opportunities for inter-disciplinary discussion and debate.
Delivering on the promise of the HIV prevention revolution
In 2012, we commemorate the first diagnosis of AIDS 30 years ago in Australia. A lot has changed since then.
For three decades now, we have had effective, community-based HIV prevention that continues to support a robust safe-sex culture. For a decade and a half, we have had effective combination antiretroviral treatment that has changed HIV from an acute, lethal infection to a chronic, manageable condition for those people who have continued access to the specialised drugs. At the same time, however, annual numbers of HIV diagnoses have continued to rise in Australia, from a low of 719 in 1999 to a high of 1,137 in 2011. Similar trends are seen in other high income countries
and underscore the continued importance of effective HIV prevention.
IDU and HIV among Malaysian fishermen
The prevalence of HIV among fishermen in Malaysia is high and has been found to be related to injecting drug use. Understanding the reasons why fishermen use drugs is critical to programs aimed at reducing the incidence of HIV in this group. A study by Martin Choo*, researcher at the Centre of Excellence for Research in AIDS (CERiA) at the University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, shows that injecting drug use (IDU) on fishing vessels serves a dual function. It enables fishermen to lighten heavy work as well as alleviate boredom between tasks. These findings suggest that
to be fully effective, HIV prevention interventions in fishing communities should address the occupational functions of drug use.
*The study is part of the PhD research by Martin Choo, co-supervised by Adeeba Kamarulzaman (University of Malaya, KL) and Philippe Adam (National Centre in HIV Social Research, The University of New South Wales).
Barriers to sexual health testing among gay men
Substantial numbers of gay men in Australia don’t test for HIV and STIs as frequently as recommended by testing guidelines. NCHSR was commissioned by the HIV/AIDS and Related Programs (HARP) Unit, South Eastern Sydney Local Health District, to research barriers to sexual health testing among gay men.
The online research conducted by Philippe Adam and colleagues brings novel insight into a comprehensive array of psychosocial barriers to sexual health testing among gay men. One key finding suggests that further promotion of testing among gay men would benefit from campaigns and interventions being tailored to the situation and specific needs of various groups of gay men, including those who never test and those who test irregularly. Programs should try to reduce the perception of HIV-related stigma that prevents
some gay men from initiating routine HIV testing and thereby further strengthen supportive norms around STI testing.
According to Julia Purchas from the HARP Unit, "The findings from this research provide evidence for health promotion program planning that until now has not existed. It enables health promotion programs to take a more rigorous and targeted approach in developing campaigns and programs aimed at specific groups of gay men".
Australasian HIV/AIDS conference
NCHSR had a strong presence at this year’s Australasian HIV/AIDS Conference held in Melbourne during October. Centre Director, Professor John de Wit launched our annual surveillance report the Annual Report of Trends in Behaviour on the first day of the conference; assisted with the launch of The Melbourne Declaration, a call to action to improve access to HIV testing, treatment and prevention in Australia; and discussed ways to enhance behavioural prevention in a special symposium on
Australia’s HIV response.
Recent grant success
NCHSR has had considerable success with grants recently as have individual researchers Professor John de Wit, Professor Carla Treloar, Dr Martin Holt, Dr Asha Persson and Dr Christy Newman.
Dr Martin Holt and Professor John de Wit, chief investigators on a three-year project to investigate undiagnosed HIV infection among gay men, received an NHMRC grant. As people with undiagnosed HIV infection contribute disproportionately to HIV transmission in Australia, this study will deliver HIV testing to gay men in community settings, provide test results to consenting participants and estimate the prevalence of HIV and undiagnosed HIV infection. It will contribute significantly to reducing the number of undiagnosed HIV infections in Australia by providing
strategic knowledge to guide HIV prevention programs. The project, led by NCHSR, is a collaboration with the Burnet Institute in Melbourne and The Kirby Institute at UNSW.