HIV Foundation Queensland chairman Dr Darren Russell says all Queenslanders can access HIV prevention tools.
HIV Foundation Queensland chairman Dr Darren Russell says all Queenslanders can access HIV prevention tools.

Slight fall in Sunshine Coast-Gympie HIV cases

SIX Sunshine Coast and Gympie residents were told last year they had HIV, but the number of cases could be higher because some locals opt to get tested in Brisbane.

Their diagnosis brings to 33 the number of Sunshine Coast health region locals who have contracted the preventable disease since 2012.

The health region covers Sunshine Coast and Gympie and our area's six new notifications follow seven in 2015, nine in 2014, three in 2013 and eight in 2012.

Statewide, 193 people were diagnosed with the disease in 2016.

Research shows about 68% of transmissions occur among men who have sex with men; 20% occur following heterosexual sex; and 3% occur via injecting drugs.

HIV Foundation Queensland chairman Dr Darren Russell said our region had a significantly lower infection rate than comparable areas like the Gold Coast health region where 30 people were diagnosed last year.

However, he said the figures should be treated with some caution as it was likely people at high risk were going to Brisbane for testing.

"We don't know why the figures are so low, but it could be that some people from this region are diagnosed in Brisbane and they are counted in those figures," Dr Russell said.

"It's always heartening to see that there are relatively low numbers.

"It may also have something to do with the size of the gay population in the area."

People at high risk of HIV can join the state's pre-exposure prophylaxis trial, requiring them to take a tablet a day to reduce their risk of contracting the disease.

The trial costs the health system about $750 per patient per year.

The Queensland Government was unable to quantify the annual cost of HIV on the health system, but Dr Russell said the disease rarely turned into life-limiting AIDS as it did in the 1970s and 1980s.

He said recent breakthroughs in medications prevented further health complications and the spread of the disease, with about 84% of those infected receiving antiretroviral treatment.

"The new treatments have virtually no side effects and one tablet a day can keep the person healthy and leading a normal life," Dr Russell said.

Queensland Health Minister Cameron Dick said the State Government hoped to reduce transmissions to zero.

"While it is great to see a reduction in HIV notifications in some areas, there is more work to be done," Mr Dick said.

"The Palaszczuk Government is working with non-government organisations and the community towards virtual elimination of new HIV transmissions in Queensland by 2020."


HIV body loses government funding

THE Queensland Government has cut funding to the organisation responsible for stopping the spread of HIV across our region.

The HIV Foundation Queensland has received about $2.4 million a year since 2013.

That money will not be available after June 30, with Health Minister Cameron Dick deciding cost savings would flow from the Health Department taking over the foundation's job.

Foundation chairman Dr Darren Russell said the foundation has been responsible for implementing and over-seeing the state's HIV strategy over the past four years.

Dr Russell said his organisation's future was unclear but the board was "looking at its options".

"Clearly we won't be in a position to do the work we do now after June 30, 2017," he said.

"It's disappointing given the great success that has occurred over the last few years.

"But we recognise that governments have the right to fund and de-fund organisations regardless of runs on the board."

Mr Dick said the foundation's funding cut was necessary to save money and make HIV prevention more efficient.

"The foundation does not directly deliver any services but contracts service delivery out to external organisations, adding extra costs to a function already performed by the department," Mr Dick said.

"This is an inefficient way for a government to deliver health services."

Mr Dick said $35 million would go to Queensland community groups working to prevent the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections over the next four years.


Number of HIV notifications by Queensland health region since 2012

Region, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, Total

Cairns and Hinterland, 26, 18, 17, 15, 20, 96

Central Queensland, 5, 4, 7, 6, 2, 24

Central West, 1, 0, 1, 0, 0, 2

Darling Downs, 6, 11, 8, 3, 7, 35

Gold Coast, 30, 31, 25, 19, 24, 129

Mackay, 6, 3, 3, 3, 4, 19

Metro North HHS, 57, 60, 75, 61, 68, 321

Metro South HHS, 37, 45, 77, 47, 51, 257

North West, 0, 4, 1, 1, 2, 8

South West, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0

Sunshine Coast, 6, 7, 9, 3, 8, 33

Torres and Cape, 0, 0, 2, 0, 0, 2

Townsville, 5, 8, 7, 7, 5, 32

West Moreton, 8, 8, 5, 12, 5, 38

Wide Bay, 6, 4, 8, 4, 10, 32

Source: Queensland Health Department


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