World AIDS Day launch: HIV is still here and it's on the move

Burnet Institute

01 December, 2016

Victorian Health Minister The Hon Jill Hennessy MP and Associate Professor Edwina Wright

HIV has not gone away in Victoria with 290 Victorians learning they had the virus last year, the state’s World AIDS Day launch has heard.

Infectious diseases physician and clinical researcher at the Alfred Hospital and Burnet Institute, Associate Professor Edwina Wright addressed a packed audience in Melbourne including the Victorian Health Minister the Hon. Jill Hennessy MP, people whose lives had been touched by HIV, community support organisations, advocates, medical researchers, and families and friends of people who had lost their lives to AIDS.

Associate Professor Wright said the 290 new HIV diagnoses included 258 men, 31 women and one transgender person. Twenty per cent were heterosexual and a further 39 people were diagnosed with AIDS.

“HIV has not gone away in this state and neither has AIDS,” she said.

Minister Hennessy announced the HIV prevention PrEPX study, which provides free medication and care for people at risk of HIV infection, would be expanded to provide a further 150 places in rural and regional Victoria, along with increased training on blood borne viruses for general practitioners.

“PrEP is giving us real hope of a future where HIV is virtually eliminated,” she told the audience at the AMREP Lecture Theatre.

“World AIDS Day is a time for us to show support for people living with HIV and to remember all those that we have lost.”

Gareth, from Living Positive Victoria’s Positive Speakers Bureau, described finding out two years ago at the age of 32 that he had HIV, and leaving a clinic with his first bag of HIV medication afraid, and angry with himself.

IMAGE: World AIDS Day speakers (L-R) Gareth, Health, The Hon Jill Hennessy, Living Positive Victoria President Richard Keane, Associate Professor Edwina Wright

He finally sought help from supportive family and friends, and after three months on antiretroviral therapy his HIV viral load levels were undetectable.

“The more we talk openly, the more the fear and judgement disappear, leaving a completely manageable virus,” he said.

Heather, also from the Positive Speakers Bureau, learned 21 years ago that she had contracted HIV during unprotected sex while travelling through Africa.

A year before antiretroviral therapy came on the market, she was given just five years to live. After starting medication, she went on to have a family and work as a journalist.

While stigma was reduced these days, she said it still existed, and she had been ‘uninvited’ from events after people learned she had HIV.

President of Living Positive Victoria Richard Keane, said 12 per cent of people living with HIV did not yet know they had the virus.

In 2016, UNAIDS figures report that 18.2 million people worldwide were accessing antiretroviral therapy; 36.7 million were living with HIV and 35 million people had died from AIDS-related illnesses since the start of the epidemic.

Staff Member


Health Issue

Contact Details

For more information in relation to this news article, please contact:

Associate Professor Edwina J Wright

Head, Wright Group




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