The Turnbull Government will provide $8 million to form a taskforce, in collaboration with the states and territories, to combat Human T-cell Lymphotropic Virus-1 (HTLV-1) and other emerging communicable diseases in remote communities.
Led by the Commonwealth’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, the taskforce will bring together Aboriginal communities, relevant health providers, researchers, clinicians and all levels of government.
The taskforce will investigate the drivers behind the emerging prevalence of HTLV-1 in remote communities, in close collaboration with Aboriginal communities, and develop a roadmap to respond to this issue.
This will provide better support for patients and communities. Funding will also be available for detailed prevalence studies and international collaboration on treatment options – should the taskforce request it.
“The Chief Medical Officer will work with the states and territories to get to the cause of HTLV-1,” Minister Hunt said.
“At present its overall impacts are not well understood, due to data collection difficulties and the limitations of existing information.”
“Through this extra investment, we aim to build on the HTLV-1 work funded by the Turnbull Government since 2015, while also strengthening the fight against other chronic infectious diseases.”
Minister Wyatt said this important work would be based on close engagement with Aboriginal families and communities, to consider what they believe is the best response.
“Collaboration between governments and the health science sector is critical,” Minister Wyatt said.
“However, progress on HTLV-1 and other communicable diseases will only be achieved through working and walking together with our First Nations people from the start.”
This funding is in addition to the $8.8 million committed over three years (2017–18 to 2019–20) to combat the syphilis outbreak affecting northern and central Australia.
In 2015, the Baker Institute received a 3-year, $875,000 National Health and Medical Research Council grant to study HTLV-1 infection among Aboriginal residents of remote communities.
The following year, funding was also provided to the Kirby Institute, with a pilot surveillance protocol and draft public health and clinical guidelines for HTLV-1 management currently under development.
Following a mother-child transmission study by the Central Australia Academic Health Science Centre, $6.1 million was allocated to the Centre in March 2018, with its first priority project to be a study addressing HTLV-1.