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CSRH Newsletter

Issue 9, July–September 2013

Centre for Social Research in Health  


It’s been a busy couple of months, with lots of conference travel for academic staff and the amalgamation of the research support teams of the Centre for Social Research in Health and the Social Policy Research Centre resulting in a later release of this newsletter. It is packed with updates on exciting new projects, including a collaborative evaluation of sexual health promotion at music festivals in NSW and a study sponsored by the HIV in Europe initiative that looks at the current evidence and practice regarding critical components of the HIV testing process. Other new projects look into hepatitis C infection in gay men, the views of HIV-positive gay and bisexual men regarding treatment as prevention, and the experiences of young people who engage in multiple risky activities with police. Further items in this newsletter include personal achievements of staff and students, including academic promotions, thesis submissions and report backs from invited presentations. I hope you’ll enjoy reading this selective update on our work.

You are cordially invited to subscribe to this newsletter and occasional e-alerts which will announce new CSRH publications and upcoming seminars.

In this Newsletter

  • 13th Social Research Conference on HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Related Diseases
  • Culture, sexuality and HIV in Vietnam
  • Can police help to get more young substance using offenders into treatment?
  • Gay and bisexual men and hepatitis C: an inconvenient infection
  • Consensus, contrast and contradiction in HIV testing and counselling guidance
  • Evaluating sexual health messages at music festivals
  • HIV Treatment as Prevention study 



Also Online


13th Social Research Conference on HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Related Diseases

Deadline for abstract submission extended until 4 November.

The theme of the conference is promises & limitations: biomedical treatment and prevention in the real world. Delegates will be asked to consider how biomedical technologies shape our understanding of the treatment and prevention of blood borne viruses, illicit drug use, chronic illness and sexually transmitted infections. The conference offers an opportunity to think critically about biomedicalisation, specifically the way that it helps or challenges understandings of treatment and prevention, the promises it holds and the extent to which these promises materialise.

Keynote speakers
Professor Deborah Lupton, Department of Sociology and Social Policy, The University of Sydney
Dr Helen Keane, School of Sociology, The Australian National University
Dr Mark Davis, School of Political and Social Inquiry, Monash University

We hope you can make time to join us in February for a look at the increasing focus on the biomedicalisation of illness.

Culture, sexuality and HIV in Vietnam

Professor Peter Aggleton was in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City recently to give two public lectures and to launch a Vietnamese language version of his book Culture, Society and Sexuality (edited jointly with Richard Parker, Columbia University, New York).

His lectures focused on the centrality of community and collective action to the national and local HIV response. According to Professor Aggleton, ‘There is no simple magic bullet for success, either in the form of biomedical intervention or in the social domain. Instead, nearly 30 years experience shows us it is collective agency—by researchers and health professionals, by members of affected groups, and by individuals—that matters most when it comes to HIV prevention, care and support’.

Can police help to get more young substance using offenders into treatment?

Researchers, governments and youth workers know that there is a small group of young people in the community who are involved in multiple risky activities. They are simultaneously involved with police, the juvenile justice system, and youth and other community services. Usually, drugs and alcohol are implicated in some way. More often than not, this group of young people have had difficult lives of poverty, violence, family upheaval, and homelessness. For these reasons the justice system seeks leniency when they commit offences, especially in relation to alcohol and illicit drug use.

Gay and bisexual men and hepatitis C: an inconvenient infection

Sex and intoxication have reserved seating at the table of human experience; they constitute a significant proportion of the pleasure of living. Nonetheless, in some contexts sexual practice and drug use are associated with the transmission of HIV and/or hepatitis C infections.

A new mixed-method study, currently underway at the Centre for Social Research in Health, aims to explore the experiences of gay and bisexual men living with hepatitis C and/or HIV, and how hepatitis C and HIV co-infection impact on individuals’ quality of life, on gay communities, and on the practice of corporeal pleasures. This research being undertaken by Dr Max Hopwood and Dr Toby Lea builds on the findings of international epidemiological studies of hepatitis C risk practice.

Consensus, contrast and contradiction in HIV testing and counselling guidance

In many countries, HIV testing efforts are failing to identify HIV infections early enough, and substantial proportions of people with HIV are unaware of their infection. 

The Centre in Social Research in Health has been commissioned by HIV in Europe to review testing and counselling guidelines across developed country contexts, empirically assess the extent to which current European practice is aligned with recommendations, and consult with experts to build consensus where HIV testing and counselling guidance is contrasting and contradictory. Incorporating the National HIV Testing Policy v1.3, the study will also examine opportunities to improve Australian HIV testing and counselling policy and practice.

Evaluating sexual health messages at music festivals

Music festivals in Australia typically attract a sub-population of young people that are at high risk of STIs. While music festivals have been extensively used to recruit participants for behavioural surveys, until recently there had been no significant sexual health promotion intervention conducted at music festivals.

During the 2012–2013 music festival season, the first large scale sexual health promotion initiative was implemented by NSW Health. The NSW STI Programs Unit (STIPU) and the Centre for Social Research in Health (CSRH) have come together to empirically assess the impact of this initiative and inform the development of future interventions at music festivals. The project team consists of Brooke Shepherd, Carolyn Murray and Chris Bourne from NSW STIPU and Philippe Adam and John de Wit from CSRH.

HIV Treatment as Prevention study

The concept of ‘treatment as prevention’ is evolving as a strategy for HIV prevention with clinical trial results indicating that antiretroviral therapy reduces a person’s HIV viral load and therefore the potential for transmitting the virus. This has led to calls to change the clinical threshold at which people are recommended to commence treatment, putting people on treatment earlier than previously recommended. While this development has gained support among some within the HIV field, it has not met with universal support.

Notably absent in the debate about the implications of ‘treatment as prevention’ so far has been the opportunity for HIV-positive people to discuss their attitudes, perceptions and feelings about it. This study will address this gap by talking to HIV-positive gay or bisexual men in Sydney to find out what they think about treating people early in order to prevent the sexual transmission of HIV. The project will include interviews with HIV-positive gay men to explore their understandings of and feelings about the concept of 'treatment as prevention' and its perceived impact on their health and wellbeing and that of their peers. This will contribute to our understanding of the education and support needs of HIV-positive gay men in relation to treatment and prevention in this moment of changing policy and strategy.

We are currently recruiting HIV-positive gay or bisexual men, aged 18 years or older, living in Sydney and either on or off HIV drug treatment.


Recent promotions at CSRH

Dr Martin Holt was recently promoted to Associate Professor and Dr Loren Brener to Senior Lecturer. Congratulations to both Martin and Loren on their well earned promotions. 



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Contact us

If you have any queries about the articles in this newsletter or CSRH, please contact Ann Whitelaw by telephoning +61 2 9385 6776 or by email to:


Ms Judi Rainbow
Dr Philippe Adam



Latest News


CSRH postgraduate students

Several of our postgraduate research students have reached major milestones recently. Rebecca Gray was awarded her doctorate for her thesis ‘The dynamics of shame: navigating professional complexities when counselling in alcohol and other drug settings’. Maude Frances, Dean Murphy and Denton Callander have all submitted their doctoral theses for examination, and Hannah Wilson has submitted her MA by Research thesis for examination. Congratulations to all of these talented new social researchers and their supervisors for their hard work and dedication. 

UNSW 3-minute thesis competition

Denton Callandar, a postgraduate research student at CSRH, was awarded 2nd place in the recent Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences 3-minute thesis competion. Denton then progressed to the Interfaculty final, where he represented the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and competed against research students from across the breadth of UNSW faculties and disciplines. 

Upcoming seminars

The next seminar will be held on Wednesday 9 October. Professor Peter Aggleton, who holds a UNSW Strategic Chair in Education and Health, will present on HIV-related stigma, discrimination and human rights: revisited.

The last seminar of the year will be held on Wednesday 13 November. This will be presented by Professor John de Wit, Director of CSRH, on What do we think shapes sexual risk-taking in gay men? Insights from experience, research and rapidly shifting theoretical paradigms.

All seminars commence at 12.00md and conclude at 1.00pm.  RSVP...

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