World AIDS Day 2020: Now More Than Ever
World AIDS Day is held on the 1 December each year to commemorate and show support for people living with HIV. Today, HIV is considered a chronic but manageable condition and people with HIV can lead long and healthy lives, with a similar life expectancy to a person who does not have HIV.
2018 saw the lowest rate of HIV diagnoses in Australia since 2010 with 833 new HIV diagnoses. Although this is great news, HIV will not be eliminated in Australia unless HIV diagnoses are reduced in all communities. As numbers reduce for gay and bisexual men, it is vital other populations are not left behind. A late diagnosis impacts on the morbidity and mortality associated with HIV.
Early detection and treatment are key to managing HIV. Most HIV diagnoses in Australia are made in the primary health setting. General Practitioners (GPs) play a key role in ensuring people are diagnosed in a timely manner. It is important that GPs offer routine testing to anyone who have risk factors, who are partners of people who may have been at risk has a history of injecting drug use or anyone who asks for a test. Support for GPs who diagnose someone with HIV is available at NSW Health HIV information for health professionals which contains information about HIV testing and the HIV Support Program.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a substantial impact on a wide range of clinical services with face to face services being reduced for infection prevention and control purposes and some patients less willing to access services. Telehealth, online services, and other virtual care options have increased as a result. Patients at high risk of HIV might benefit for alternative service delivery options to face-to-face testing such as the HIV Dried Blood Spot (DBS) test. Eligible patients could access a free, easy, private, and accurate HIV and/or hepatitis C test at their home. GPs could refer eligible patients to order the DBS test kits through the DBS Test website.
Now more than ever, it is paramount to remind people of the importance of preventing HIV transmission strategies, including using condoms for vaginal or anal sex, using sterile injecting equipment, and taking HIV PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis). PrEP is a HIV prevention method in which people who do not have HIV take a pill every day to reduce their risk of becoming infected with HIV. PrEP is very effective if taken as directed; but poor adherence can result in HIV infection.
Clinical PrEP guidelines for GPs who provide care to people at risk of acquiring HIV infection are available on the ASHM website.
Updated HIV treatment information is also available at: