Queensland signs Paris Declaration, commits to end the HIV epidemic

Thursday, December 1, 2022

With Queensland set to join the global Fast-Track Cities initiative and sign onto the Paris Declaration to End the HIV Epidemic by 2030, we caught up with Queensland’s Chief Health Officer, Dr John Gerrard to hear the latest in the fight against HIV.

Dr Gerrard said signing the Paris Declaration on Fast-Track Cities: Ending the HIV Epidemic by 2030 meant Queensland was now committed to achieving the UNAIDS 95-95-95 HIV targets. “The 95-95-95 targets are 95 percent of people living with HIV knowing their status, 95 percent receiving sustained antiretroviral treatment, and 95 percent of people living with HIV and on antiretroviral treatment maintaining viral suppression.”

And according to recent figures, Queensland is well on the way. Dr Gerrard said an estimated 5,850 Queenslanders were living with HIV, of which 91 per cent knew their HIV status, 91 per cent were on antiretroviral therapy, and 93 per cent were maintaining a suppressed viral load. “We are also seeing an annual decrease in new HIV diagnoses,” he said.

Dr Gerrard attributes these improvements to Queensland’s multi-faceted approach to sexual health, which features a range of cross-government and cross-sector partners working together to implement key strategies and initiatives in the Queensland Sexual Health Framework and the Queensland HIV Action Plan. Key to this response is maintaining these strong partnerships between government, academia, scientists, clinicians, and the community sector.

“Joining Fast-Track Cities is a fundamental moment for Queensland. It demonstrates our commitment to continuing to work with our partners to fast-track closing gaps in HIV prevention, testing and treatment, as well as striving to eliminate stigma and discrimination,” Dr Gerrard said.

While the latest data is promising, Dr Gerrard said clinicians should remain vigilant and prioritise routine BBV/STI testing. “Routine testing helps people feel more comfortable and willing to discuss their sexual health. Try and build rapport with the person and engage in a culturally appropriate and sensitive way to identify any potential risk behaviours and which tests to recommend,” he said.

Queensland Health’s STI/BBV Testing Tool for Asymptomatic People provides conversation starters and testing recommendations for different patient cohorts, as well as how to test for different conditions and when contact tracing is required.

In the event a HIV diagnosis needs to be given, how this is managed can have a profound impact on a consumer. “A diagnosis is a life-changing event. They will probably have a lot of questions. Being compassionate and providing relevant information is fundamental in helping them transition from being a person without HIV, to a person living with HIV.”

“The time around diagnosis is particularly important to support consumers to engage with or remain in care. If someone starts treatment early and achieves and maintains viral suppression, their risk of onward transmission is greatly reduced,” Dr Gerrard said. “It improves their quality of life greatly.”

“The role of clinicians is vital if we are to meet the UNAIDS targets outlined in the Paris Declaration by 2030.”

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Last updated: 1 December 2022