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Australian Government announces $25 million boost to fight HIV

Australian Government announces $25 million boost to fight HIV

The Australian Government has signalled a massive increase in funding to fight HIV and other sexually transmitted infections if it is returned to office at 7 September elections.

A $25 million dollar boost to funding was announced last week, with a big part of the package going to fund the rollout of HIV rapid testing after a rise in HIV diagnoses in Australia in the last few years.

The money will also be used to boost point of care testing for HIV where testing is done by a person’s normal doctor, rather than having to go to an STD clinic for testing, to encourage regular testing among high risk groups.

Part of the package will also go to increase access to clean syringes for injecting drug users in regional areas, with money also allocated to culturally specific education programs for Indigenous Australians.

The money will also support the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, scheduled for July in 2014 which is expected to be the largest medical conference ever held in Australia – with as many as 25,000 people expected to attend.

Australian Federation of AIDS Organizations (AFAO) president Willie Rowe said the funding would be crucial to tackling the issue.

‘Expanding the uptake of voluntary testing is critical if we are going to drive down the rate of HIV infections in the gay community,’ Rowe said.

‘Today’s announcement delivers significant funding to ensure that it’s easier for people to get a test for HIV and be given preliminary results within half an hour.

‘All of the evidence shows that expanded access to testing is one of the most powerful tools at our disposal.’

However whether that funding would continue if Opposition leader Tony Abbott’s Liberal-National Coalition wins office is unclear as his coalition has released no policies on HIV or LGBT issues.

The Coalition’s only health policy announcements to date have been a promise to streamline the medical grants process, create national standards for clinical trials, and safeguard funding for the National Health and Medical Research Council.

The news comes as the Australian Government under Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced a $3.5 million injection of funding for a sexual health clinic that the Queensland state Liberal-National government had tried to partially close down.

The Biala Sexual Health Clinic should be able to provide all its services until at least financial year 2014/2015 which supporters hope will be long enough to convince the state government of the clinic’s value.

The funding announcement comes less than a year after AFAO called on the Australian Government to do more to combat the spread of HIV by investing in the roll out of new technologies.