New TV and Social Media Campaign Tackles First Nations HIV

Source: Minister for Indigenous Health, Media Hub, The Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP, 27 November 2018

A new television, social media and community campaign has been launched during Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HIV Awareness Week, to increase understanding of HIV and reduce new cases among First Nations people.

A new television, social media and community campaign has been launched during Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HIV Awareness Week, to increase understanding of HIV and reduce new cases among First Nations people.

Part of a $3.4 million project funded by our Government, through the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), the campaign aims to capitalise on a reduction in new HIV diagnoses last year.

The campaign has First Nations voices and people speaking directly to First Nations people – communicating with cultural understanding, to help ensure these lifesaving messages get through.

Read the full release

Health authorities declare syphilis outbreak has spread to Adelaide

Source: ABC News, Exclusive by Rebecca Puddy and Isabel Dayman, 14 November 2018

A syphilis outbreak has been declared in Adelaide, as health authorities warn unborn babies could die if the infectious disease transmits through the womb.

SA Health issued an alert to medical practitioners, advising the syphilis outbreak had formally been extended to Adelaide after previously being in place in the state's Far North, Eyre Peninsula and western regions.

The outbreak began in regional Queensland in 2011, and since then thousands of people across four states have been infected.

The Federal Government's response to the outbreak — which includes rapid response tests — is yet to reach South Australia.

It has been rolled out in regional centres in Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

SA Health communicable disease control director Louise Flood said there had been a "small but sustained increase in syphilis cases in metropolitan Adelaide over the past six months".

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Major study to plug gaps in Indigenous health data

SourceNational Indigenous Times, 30 October 2018

The biggest ever study of health and wellbeing among Indigenous adults will be launched Thursday.

Among the data to be collected by researchers is the impact of historical policy decisions such as the Stolen Generations and exposure to racism, as well as how culture is linked to wellbeing.

The Mayi Kuwayu study will kick off in Brisbane at the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation Members’ Conference.

It is spearheaded by Australian National University Associate Professor and Wongaibon man Ray Lovett and is the first of its kind.

Hundreds of thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are expected to participate.

“We are trying to plug gaps in data and change the mistaken narrative that being Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander is the cause of ill health,” Associate Professor Lovett said.

“It is important because past policies likely contribute to intergenerational health and wellbeing outcomes for our mob.”

“Governments and statistical agencies are very reluctant to collect and report information on that.”

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Government spends $8.8 million to curb syphilis outbreak

SourceNational Indigenous Times, Wendy Caccetta, 17 October 2018

Three more regions are to get on-the-spot syphilis tests in the ongoing fight against the potentially deadly outbreak in northern Australia.

The quick tests are now available in East Arnhem Land and Katherine in the Northern Territory and the Kimberley in Western Australia.

They became available in northern Queensland and Darwin in August.

Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt said feedback from Queensland and Darwin was that the tests were having a positive impact.

“Since the syphilis outbreak started in 2011, there have been more than 2200 reported cases,” Mr Wyatt said. “This is a preventable disease, and in this day and age, it’s a tragedy that it is so prevalent in some First Nation communities.”

The Federal Government is spending $8.8 million to curb the outbreak of syphilis in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

The on-the-spot tests allow instant diagnosis and if needed, immediate treatment.

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HIV diagnoses hit seven year low: Australia’s annual HIV figures released today

SourceKirby Institute at UNSW Sydney,  24 September 2018

Australia has recorded its lowest level of HIV diagnoses in seven years, according to a new report from the Kirby Institute at UNSW Sydney.

The report, released today at the Australasian HIV & AIDS Conference in Sydney, found that there were 963 new HIV diagnoses in 2017, the lowest number since 2010. Researchers are attributing the promising results to more people getting tested for HIV, more people living with HIV starting treatment which reduces the risk of HIV transmission to effectively zero, and an increased use of preexposure prophylaxis (or PrEP, an HIV prevention pill).

“We should be very pleased with these results,” said Professor Rebecca Guy, head of the Kirby Institute’s Surveillance, Evaluation and Research Program. “Although the declines are relatively small, the downward trend over recent years, alongside increased testing rates and enhanced national prevention strategies, mean we can be cautiously optimistic about these reductions.”

Gay and bisexual men continue to represent the highest proportion of new HIV diagnoses in Australia, accounting for almost two-thirds of all infections. “Some encouraging news from this year’s report is that we’re seeing the greatest reductions in HIV diagnoses in this population, with a 15% decrease in diagnoses in the past year,” said Professor Guy.

“This decline is good news, but there is much more work to be done. PrEP offers every opportunity to drive down HIV to low levels, but it needs to reach all people who could benefit from it. In particular we need to improve access for gay and bisexual men living outside of inner-city areas, gay and bisexual men born overseas and Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander gay and bisexual men.”

Read the full story and view the report

Young Deadly Syphilis Free campaign new resources

This is to let you know that Phase 2 of SAHMRI’s Young Deadly Syphilis Free campaign was launched on 9 September, with new resources building on the messaging developed for Phase 1 of the campaign, which ran until March this year.

The syphilis outbreak continues in Northern and Central Australia, with over 2175 cases of infectious syphilis reported among Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people living in remote and urban areas of QLD, WA, SA and the NT.  The Pilbara region in WA is the newest area with new notifications. Most cases of syphilis were found in people aged 15-29 years. Since the outbreak was declared in 2011 there have been 6 infant deaths due to congenital syphilis (3 confirmed and 3 probable).

New  resources for clinicians practising in remote communities will also be developed, promoting appropriate testing to those most at risk, including antenatal testing of women during pregnancy.
New TV commercials will run alongside our initial TV commercials aired during last year and until March this year.

To view the two new TV commercials just click the images below.
Please don’t share these until after 9 September.
The first of our new TVCs is a powerful message from community members about syphilis and the importance of testing

The second one is a shortened version of our original syphilis animation cut to fit TV advertising time and standards.

Over the next few months we will add to the scheduling of TV ads with new content as they are finalised in production.

Our campaign begins next week and will run for a year so please use these resources in your work or refer to these when talking to community.

Social Media
Social media will feature health messages by our mob, for our mob.

Once again the campaign will be strongly supported by social media, with regular Facebook posts, Divas Chat advertising and promotion on our website featuring all new video clips and infographics. The campaign promotes whole communities’ involvement in tackling syphilis as a public health issue along with other STIs, and has involved young people, clinicians and people of influence such as parents and extended family members/carers.

Young Deadly Free Clinic Posters
Healthy messages by our mob, for our mob.

Take a sneak peek below at the new Young Deadly Free posters, we are just giving you a preview but we have many more to choose from. They are available to download from our website for printing.

The project team would like to thank all the talent who have provided input to the new resources during our visits in community.

Follow Young Deadly Free on Facebook and Instagram to stay up to date on new resources as they're launched

Syphilis in northern communities

Source: The Saturday Paper, Michele Tydd, 8-14 September 2018

As an infectious syphilis epidemic continues to ravage northern Australia – now threatening the lives of newborn babies – Indigenous sexual health specialist James Ward is leading a campaign to help remote communities.

While the federal government committed $8.8 million this year to fight an ongoing syphilis epidemic sweeping Australia’s top end, many prominent sexual health physicians and academics claim the money is too little too late.

“Every day there are more cases, so we are not seeing a downward trend yet,” says Dr Manoji Gunathilake, who heads up a government-run health service known as Clinic 34.

Gunathilake is the Northern Territory’s only specialist sexual health physician. She says local health workers are ramping up testing as part of a fight to contain the infection, which particularly affects young sexually active Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the territory. However, it seems those measures are struggling to contain the STI’s spread.

Read the full story


Government launches critical new weapon in fight against syphilis

Source: National Indigenous Times, Wendy Caccetta, 8 August 2018

The Federal Government has begun rolling out what it says is a critical new weapon in the fight against the deadly syphilis outbreak which has gripped northern Australia.

Federal Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt said from today on-the-spot syphilis tests would be available in three high risk regions — Townsville, Cairns and Darwin.

The instant tests allow people to be diagnosed straight away and to be treated immediately, rather than have to wait a fortnight for results from traditional blood tests.

“These tests are a critical weapon in the fight to curb and control the spread of syphilis,” Mr Wyatt said.

Three thousand test kits have been sent to the Townsville Aboriginal and Islanders Health Service, 3,000 to the Wuchopperen Health Service in Cairns and 4,000 to the Danila Dilba Health Service in Darwin.

Read the full story

Syphilis: How deadly disease has spread in Australia

Source: BBC News, Sydney, By Frances Mao

Less than a decade ago, doctors in Australia believed they were close to eliminating syphilis from remote indigenous communities - the centre of national efforts to fight the disease.

Since then, however, the sexually transmitted infection has grown into an outbreak spanning three states and a territory.

Doctors say six babies have died from congenital syphilis since 2011.

During the same period, they say the outbreak overwhelmingly affecting indigenous Australians has risen from about 120 people to more than 2,100.

Health experts have characterised it as a crisis, saying the nation faces a "big task" to bring the problem under control.

How did this happen?

The majority of syphilis sufferers in Australia are young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who live in regional areas in the nation's north and centre, doctors say.

Indigenous health experts, including Associate Prof James Ward, issued a call in the Medical Journal of Australia in 2011 to try to end syphilis in communities where it was a problem.

But Associate Prof Ward says it has instead "spiralled out of control", spreading from one Queensland community to elsewhere in the state, as well as to the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia.

Read the full story

Syphilis shame needs to be eradicated too

Source: National News, © 4CA Cairns – 12 July 2018

Erasing a syphilis epidemic sweeping indigenous communities will not only require the distribution of rapid test kits but also ending the shame associated with the disease, a leading sexual health physician says.

The federal government will distribute on Monday, as part of an $8.8 million plan to tackle the outbreak, more than 60,000 rapid test kits across Townsville, Cairns and Darwin.

Cairns Sexual Health Service physician Dr Darren Russell, who is also an associate professor at James Cook University, says the kits were "long overdue" but only part of the solution.

Since 2011, more than 1000 cases had been recorded in north Queensland including 11 babies with congenital syphilis of which six have died.

"We've had an epidemic in Queensland … and that has spread across to the Northern Territory, Western Australia and more recently South Australia," he said.

Read the full story