Preventing the Epedemic that Australia does not have to have: AIDS and Injecting Drug Users
Dr. Alex Wodak, Director, Alcohol and Drug Service,St. Vincent’s Hospital
Conference Paper: AIDS – Have we got it Right?
A conference organised by The Australian Doctors Fund Ltd.
Hosted by Professor Fred Hollows & ADF Chairman Dr. Bruce Shepherd
Sheraton Sydney Airport Hilton
May 14th and 15th, 1992
Control of HIV infection among and from injecting drug users is critical for the long term control of HIV Infection in Australia. There is now consistent and strong evidence that the prevalence of HIV infection among Australian injecting drug users is still low. Recent evidence suggests that Australian injecting drug users are reducing injecting behaviour associated with HIV infection. Australia adopted policies early and implemented programmes vigorously which were designed to reduce the spread of HIV infection in this population. The most plausible explanation for Australia’s low prevalence of HIV infection in Australia’s policies and programmes responsible for the present low rate of HIV infection in injecting drug users is the early and vigorous implementation of HIV prevention programmes. Control of HIV infection in Australian injecting drug users represents one of the major public health triumphs in this country in the past decade and probably reduced the present cumulative number of AIDS cases by 1200, AIDS deaths by 800 and expenditure on AIDS by at least $60 million. However, recent international experience in this area is alarming. The prevalence of HIV infection in injecting drug users in Australia will probably rise in the future. Complacency, failure to implement HIV prevention in prisons including especially bleach and continued emphasis on supply reduction drug policy will ensure that this happens sooner rather than later.