The Sixth National HIV Strategy

6.1.3 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Page last updated: July 2010

Some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have very high rates of STIs, which amplify the likelihood of HIV transmission. There is potential for a rapid-spreading epidemic initiated by injecting and sustained by high rates of STIs as has occurred overseas among Indigenous peoples and injecting drug users.8,9,10 The Third National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Blood Borne Viruses and Sexually Transmissible Infections Strategy 2010–2013 places a high priority on harm reduction interventions to reduce HIV and hepatitis C transmission associated with unsafe injecting drug use practices. Ensuring that a wide range of strategies to distribute sterile injecting equipment, including through NSPs, are available in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is a priority. Bacterial STIs will be addressed through detection and treatment. This HIV strategy will complement those efforts. Both strategies seek to address the high levels of stigma associated with HIV and STIs, particularly in remote communities, which leads to fears of disclosure and heightened secrecy. Both strategies also seek to protect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women from HIV.

Health promotion and harm reduction services can be difficult for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations to access. Strategies will be put in place to provide services that are accessible, culturally appropriate and which better meet their health needs. This includes support for retaining an appropriately trained clinical, prevention and health promotion workforce. Cultural awareness and sensitivity to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander practices and beliefs are required. So too is capacity development in sexual health promotion, community development, peer education, clinical care and research.

Cross-border issues with Papua New Guinea are a significant concern affecting Torres Strait Island communities. This issue has received increasing attention since 2007 and is addressed in the Third National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Blood Borne Viruses and Sexually Transmissible Infections Strategy 2010–2013. This HIV strategy acknowledges the heightened risk of HIV, STI and tuberculosis transmission associated with the movement and interaction of people between Australia and the Western Province of Papua New Guinea, and the importance of continued efforts to address the increased burden on health services and the need for improved coordination of public health programs.

Top of Page
8 Hendley N, 2003, ‘A Tale of Two Cities: Lessons in Addiction from Vancouver to Toronto’, Journal of Addiction and Mental Health, December 2003, p. 1, available at: <http://www.accessmylibrary.com/article-1G1-111897050/taletwo-cities-lessons.html on 28/09/2009>.
9 Page-Shafer K, 2000, The Global HIV/AIDS Epidemic—HIV Explodes in the Asia/Pacific Region’, p. 1, available at: < http://www.thebody.com/content/art2619.html on 28/09/2009>.
10 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Regional Office for South Asia (Rosa) Projects, Project Summary RAS/H13, p. 2, available at: <http://www.unodc.org/india/ras_h13.html on 28/09/2009>.