Australian Indigenous Population Risks Major HIV Infection Rates; Drug Users League Warns Gov't not to Repeat Canada's Mistake

As World AIDS Day approaches, December 1, 2009, the Australian Injecting and Illicit Drug Users League (AIVL) is warning of a rise in HIV infections in Australia's indigenous population from 18% to 22% among it's IV drug users from 2004 - 2008, while the rate among the non-indigenous population has remained the same at 3% over the same period.

The group is warning Australia not repeat the mistakes made in Canada in the 1990s, which saw a rapid rise in HIV infections due to slow action taken to reduce the spread of the disease. Over the past twenty years Canada has seen a 500% increase in HIV infections among it's indigenous population, with over half being attributed to unsafe injection practices.

AIVIL points out that the most marginalized people are at risk, and has consulted the Australian government, which is developing a new anti-AIDS strategy project. Annie Madden, AIVL Executive Officer stated that the problem requires urgent action:

“The Canadian experience highlights for us just how quickly things can change when it comes to HIV infection rates and injecting drug use. Experience shows that once HIV rates start to climb towards 10% in populations of people who inject drugs it is extremely difficult to bring those rates down. We cannot just put our head in the sand and hope it won’t happen here”

Source: World AIDS Day Media Release: “Can’t Afford to Wait Until It’s Too Late” - by AIVL, the Australian Injecting and Illicit Drug Users League. AIVL website


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