Monday 17 December 2012

The CSIS/Lancet panel session on MSM and HIV

In July 2012, a special edition of The Lancet focusing on the global HIV epidemic among men who have sex with men (MSM) was launched at the International AIDS Conference in Washington D.C.  To complement this, The United States’ Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) convened a panel session where several authors who contributed to the edition discussed their papers.

Policy Implications of The Lancet MSM & HIV Series from CSIS on Vimeo.

Friday 30 November 2012

World AIDS Day 2012 - Recharging our Response

In the lead up to World AIDS Day,  leaders of two community HIV organisations, one in Sydney and one in Bangkok, reflect on future directions the HIV response needs to take.

Wednesday 21 November 2012

AIVL reports on the Viral Hepatitis Conference

Launch of the Auckland Statement at the
Viral Hepatitis Conference. Photo: Petrana Lorenz.   
The  8th Australasian Conference on Viral Hepatitis, hosted by ASHM, was held 8-12 September 2012 in Auckland.

AIVL attended the conference and played a major role through participation on the conference organising committee, working groups and on the drafting and launch of the Auckland Statement.

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Advocacy Corner at the ASHM Conference

Ryan Snaith from Kenya Aid
An Advocacy Corner in the Exhibition Hall was a new addition to ASHM's (Australasian Society for HIV Medicine) HIV/AIDS Conference in Melbourne this year.

The corner, organised by AFAO, created a space to discuss the work and issues of the HIV community sector, both here in Australia and internationally. There were several great discussions held throughout the week, two of which I was lucky enough to attend as host.

Friday 5 October 2012

Australian public health experts discuss HIV and TB on new online news channel

MSF.TV panel participants (L-R): Bill Bowtell (AO), Dr Suman
Majumdar, James Gilling, and Assoc. Prof Daniel O'Brien
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has  announced the launch of  MSF.TV, Australia's first online humanitarian news channel.

The channel  will include updates, news items, interviews, documentaries and live debates that explore medical and humanitarian issues relating to the work of MSF.

Wednesday 26 September 2012

Indonesian HIV workers visit Australia

Yanti Susanti, ALAF delegate, speaking

at the ALAF Program launch at AFAO
On 18 September, a delegation of 11 Indonesian HIV sector workers arrived in Australia to participate in an education program about Australia's HIV response.

The delegates are being hosted by AFAO with funding support through the AusAID Australian Leadership Awards Fellowships (ALAF) program.

Monday 13 August 2012

AFAO's message of appreciation for Healthy Communities

Cuts to the funding of Queensland Association of Healthy Communities (QAHC) sexual health, HIV and LGBT drug & aclohol programs take effect from Friday 17 August. 

The organisation will lose 22 staff, including all staff of the sexual health program, and close its Maroochydore office.

Friday 3 August 2012

A Labour Rights Approach to HIV and Sex Work: Working with Sex Workers to Protect Human Rights, Prevent and Eliminate Violence and Sexual Harassment and Promote Equal Access to Protection Schemes

Session on a report on the labour rights of
sex workers in Laos, funded by the ILO
The International Labour Organisation (ILO), the United Nations peak body on labour, hosted panel discussions at the IAS conference to explore options for building and maintaining successful partnerships with sex worker organisations to improve sex workers’ access to HIV prevention, care, treatment and support services and to address more directly underlying causes of vulnerability such as workplace safety, fair pay and conditions, protection of rights.

Friday 27 July 2012

HIV in Asia - Transforming the agenda for 2012 and beyond

Members of Alliance India before the
conference. Photo courtesy of AIDS 2012.
The HIV in Asia - Transforming the agenda for 2012 and beyond report into the effectiveness of HIV response in Asia was officially launched on Tuesday night at AIDS 2012. The report was co-commissioned by AusAID and UNAIDS.

Peter Godwin, one of the authors, explained that the report reviewed several countries across the region, and conducted over 100 interviews.

Key findings included the need to re-assess the model of the HIV response as it currently operates across much of Asia.

Wednesday 25 July 2012

24 July: Tuesday (Post) Exposure

Edwina Wright and Dean Murphy
For me, Tuesday was particularly exciting because there were many sessions on HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis. In anticipation of this I breakfasted with Edwina Wright, ASHM president, with whom I had been working to develop a proposal to study how PrEP might be implemented in Australia.

A new terminology has entered PrEP discourse, which relates to 'seasonal' use. Seasonal use refers to using PrEP for limited periods—months or weeks—at times of greatest risk or need. Such sporadic use raises concerns about drug resistance and onward transmission of drug resistance. So there is a need for PrEP users to be aware of the symptoms of HIV seroconversion.

Opening Plenary - AIDS 2012

Hillary Clinton addresses the conference.
© IAS/Ryan Rayburn -
The start of AIDS 2012 has been stimulating and thought-provoking. The opening plenary on Monday morning attracted many important speakers, the most well-known being US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. To a rapturous welcome she described the great strides that have been made in the global fight against HIV – highlighting the US' efforts both domestically and internationally.

As would be expected from any sitting politician, she highlighted progress made by her government in addressing HIV. She identified the recently up-held Affordable Care Act, which for the first time will prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, as well as stop insurance companies from capping the amount in dollars that people receive. She also cited the new US National HIV Strategy.

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Framework for country-level PrEP demonstration projects being developed

Now that there is evidence of the efficacy of HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) we need to determine the best way to deliver PrEP in the 'real world' and to gather evidence of its effectiveness from countries where it is rolled out. At a meeting organised by the World Health Organisation and attended by the UNAIDS, the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), US government, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the investigators of the PrEP studies, participants started developing a country-level protocol development framework for PrEP demonstration projects.

Friday 20 July 2012

Going social

Social media & Web 2.0 are now such a ‘given’ in health promotion and HIV prevention work that having a session dedicated to social media at a conference almost becomes redundant. The recent AFAO/NAPWA Gay Men’s Health Promotion Conference was no exception, with social media and the web ubiquitous throughout the program.

A number of presentations – such as Carlos Sepulvada’s Down an’ dirty presentation, or Nadine Toussaint’s 1 Community – described how interactive websites, Facebook, and other online strategies contributed to community engagement and effective promotion of key messages. Often, as in the case of the 1 Community anti-stigma campaign, the online component was carefully integrated with offline activities.

Tuesday 19 June 2012

Impressions from AFAO’s National Gay Men’s HIV Health Promotion Conference

"Liberty leading the People" by Eugène Delacroix,
was a popular trigger for musings on the meanings
of  the prevention 'revolution' - she featured on the slides
of four presenters. 
These are some impressions from AFAO’s National Gay Men’s HIV Health Promotion Conference held late May. The conference was a place for many discussions. The development of  new HIV prevention options that can be added to our existing tools  was described as a 'revolution' by some, and as an 'evolution' by others. Whether it is thought of as a revolution or an evolution, several major ways to intensify HIV prevention were discussed throughout the conference. 

Monday 21 May 2012

Healthy Communities (QAHC) to be defunded

Queensland Health Minister Lawrence Springborg announced on Sunday that all Queensland Health funding to the Queensland Association for Healthy Communities (QAHC) will cease within three months.

Healthy Communities, an AFAO member, currently receives $2.6 million in grants from Queensland Health to help combat HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections in the gay community, as well as running programs for other health issues, such as reducing smoking and drug use.

Friday 20 April 2012

Immigrant, CALD communities and HIV - Silence and Articulation Conference, NCHSR

Presentations in this session identified key gaps in our knowledge about CALD communities affected by HIV, stimulated discussion about how to improve the HIV response among migrants and refugees, and explored questions of who is silenced and who is privileged in discussion around HIV, CALD communities and criminalisation.

Monday 16 April 2012

We're family too

I was privileged to attend the launch on 10 April of the "We're Family too" report on a community consultation on the impact of homophobia in Arabic speaking communities. The report also draws attention to the discrimination experienced by same sex attracted (SSA) people of Arabic speaking background in the gay & lesbian communities and offers recommendations for how these issues may be addressed.

"We're Family Too", launched by NSW MLC the Hon. John Ajaka, was produced by ACON's Lesbian & Gay Anti-Violence Project under the guidance of a steering group which included a wide range of community representatives.

Monday 26 March 2012

Some brief reflections on PSF 2012

L-R: Rob Lake (AFAO Executive
director) and Michael Hurley
(PSF facillitator)

Michael Hurley (Adjunct Assoc. Professor, ARCSHS) who facilitated the Positive Services Forum concluded the forum proceedings by providing his reflections on some of the overriding themes that emerged across the two days.

He challenged us to consider how HIV is perceived within the context of public health. With the rapid decline in mortality directly related to HIV, the development of co-morbidities, and the increasing life-expectancy, he said that the story of HIV in Australia is “not a straight-forward story to tell”.

Michael observed that there were a number of dualities in the current response to HIV. For example: the existence of ‘old epidemics’ and ‘new epidemics’ in Australia generates tensions for service providers and require new approaches; the cultural versus the biomedical (eg. safe sex practices versus treatment as prevention); the public health and the counter-public health approach (public health versus criminalisation).

Tuesday 20 March 2012

Engaging with communities: building and sustaining community involvement

In this session at the Positive Services Forum, presenters outlined programs and initiatives that target specific communities, and discussed challenges related to community engagement.

Living well: addressing social isolation

Presenters in this session of the Positive Services Forum described programs that aimed to reduce social isolation and build resilience for people living with HIV. Programs included volunteer mentoring, the 'rock and water' program, support around food and nutrition, and a camp for HIV-affected families. A notable theme was funding through partnerships with the private sector.

State of the positive nation - changes and emerging issues

Day two of the Positive Services Forum opened with a breakfast session focusing on scientific and social research about people living with HIV. The session was  facilitated by AFAO Executive Director Rob Lake; presenters outlined a range of current and emerging issues for PLHIV based on current research.

Living well: addressing stigma and social isolation

Presenters in this session at the Positive Services Forum highlighted a range of projects addressing stigma and discrimination amonst a variety of groups.

Infiltrating the mainstream

Presenters in the third session at the Positive Services Forum discussed the increase in PLHIV accessing  mainstream services and the need for mainstream and specialised services to work together to develop new and innovative approaches to service delivery.

The policy environment: jurisdictional intersections

Session Two at the AFAO Positive Services Forum focused on current issues for people living with HIV, which include e-health, health reform, immigration, criminalisation and discrimination.

Monday 19 March 2012

New Directions - Services responding to a changing landscape

30 years into the HIV epidemic, Australian service providers and policy-makers face a variety of changes - including biomedical advances that enhance the potential of treatment as prevention; and changes in the profile of new diagnoses each year. In this session at the Positive Services Forum, speakers identified key changes and explored potential responses and strategies for seizing the opportunities these changes present.

Ian Rankin opening address at Positive Serves Forum 2012

Ian Rankin, AFAO president,  gave the opening address at the forum. He spoke about the new HIV prevention targets Australia has committed to, saying that in order to achieve them part of our work is to attract, convince and support many thousands more people living with HIV to commence treatment.

Thursday 15 March 2012

AFAO Positive Services Forum 2012

AFAO is holding a national Positive Services Forum on 19-20 March for AFAO member organisations involved in planning and providing services to people living with HIV.

The Forum will provide opportunities to:
  • explore key care and support issues
  • share information and resources
  • network and strategise
  • share best practice for maintaining and promoting quality service provision which meets the needs of people living with HIV across affected communities.
You can view the forum program on our website.

We are keen to facilitate network-building, collaborations and sharing of resources within the AFAO membership and also between our sector and mainstream providers.

Keep an eye on this blog - AFAO staff will be posting updates on the Forum proceedings.