HIV Australia Vol 11 No 3 Editorial

HIV Australia Vol 11 No 3 Editorial

HIV Australia | Vol. 11 No. 3 | October 2013

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are advised that this article of HIV Australia contains names of people who have passed away.

We acknowledge traditional owners and custodians of land, Elders both past and present, and acknowledge the tremendous part you have all played in keeping communities strong, resilient and engaged in this important area of work.

It was over 20 years ago when alarm bells were sounded about the devastating impact that HIV/ AIDS could have on our communities. This hasn’t happened, so thank you!

We would also like to acknowledge the leaders, the pioneers of HIV/AIDS in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities – those who have left us and those who continue to advocate and positively influence the policy and program agenda. There are far too many to mention here, but we pay our sincerest respects to you, your families and friends. Thank you!

This edition of HIV Australia focuses in on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HIV, sexual health and related issues for many reasons. Like many areas of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, there is a disproportionate rate of morbidity associated with many sexually transmissible infections (STIs), HIV, and other blood borne viruses compared to non-Indigenous Australians.

Guest editor James Ward is an Indigenous health researcher with more than 15 years’ experience. He is a descendent of the Pitjantjatjara and Nurrunga clans of central and South Australia.

Guest editor Michael Costello has over 18 years’ experience working in the community response to HIV. He is Central Arrernte of the Arrernte Nation.

This area is complex to explain, it is sensitive, it is often classified as men’s or women’s business, it is about people’s personal lives, their behaviours (both hidden and open); but most importantly, this disparity is a symptom of both historical and contemporary issues impacting on Indigenous Australians. In a contemporary and health setting environment STIs, HIV and viral hepatitis compete with a raft of other health priorities such as chronic disease, child and maternal health, grief, loss and trauma.

The risk factors for HIV are there – they are visible, but often they are difficult to address. These include individual behaviours, and societal and structural factors such as environment, employment, economic opportunities, education outcomes – and for many – poverty. In addition, the magnitude of intergenerational trauma arising from previous policies and programs is an area not well understood in Australia but known to impact on other Indigenous populations globally, particularly in the area of HIV.

This edition of HIV Australia explores some of the work underway in Australia to address rates of STIs and HIV in the fields of prevention, clinical care, epidemiology and public health. New technology is discussed, both in the use of point-of-care devices to test and diagnose in clinics, particularly in communities where endemic rates of STIs exist, and in disseminating health promotion messages to young Aboriginal people through digital and social media as well as through artistic expression.

Authors explore the impact of HIV, STIs and other BBVs affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities, addressing cultural and societal experiences. Several articles discuss health promotion programs and other programs using a community development approach. Contributors also discuss the myriad of related challenges facing a diverse community.

We hope you enjoy this edition of HIV Australia. We hope to have highlighted some of the programs underway in Australia to address this often neglected area of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

In the next year, Australia will host the International AIDS Conference – the world’s largest medical event. This will be held in Melbourne in July and immediately prior to this an Indigenous peoples pre-conference meeting will be held in Sydney, bringing international and national delegates together to discuss responses, advocacy issues, research and programs, as well as to participate in an exciting social and cultural program. We look forward to your participation in both events.

This is a timely edition of HIV Australia as we head into 2014. Much more work needs to be done to ensure equitable health care and outcomes for our mob, and we will continue on the path of rectifying this into the future. Stay strong, healthy and resilient.

Thank you to all who have contributed to this edition, particularly Arone Meeks for the beautiful artwork and Neville Fazulla for sharing his personal story, both inspirational men.

Finally, this edition wouldn’t have occurred if not for the very hard work of Finn O’Keefe and Linda Forbes at AFAO; thank you so much for keeping us on track and producing such a great edition.

Sincerely, James Ward and Michael Costello