WESTERN Australia’s peak body for HIV and AIDS says some sections of the state continue to struggle against the spread of HIV, with access to sexual health testing in need of serious improvement.
Australia typically sees around 1000 new cases of HIV diagnosed every year, with 10 per cent of those found in Western Australia. But experts say the spread of those new infections is far more complex in Western Australia than Australian states.
WA AIDS Council Executive Director Trish Langdon says many people living with HIV in Western Australia have picked up the virus while outside the state.
“The issue in WA is a bit different than other states in that many people being diagnosed have acquired HIV elsewhere but they’re coming to Western Australia to work or for other reasons,” she says.
“Some of this is about people who are traveling overseas for work or tourism and some of it is about people who relocate to WA for employment reasons, perhaps from high prevalence countries in Africa or Asia.”
Ms Langdon says the WA AIDS Council is working to provide capacity building among migrant communities as well as developing knowledge and awareness of HIV in people traveling to and from high prevalence countries.
“We’ve been trying to do awareness especially among people working in the resources industry traveling to other countries for mining jobs, as well as for young adults visiting family or friends in high risk countries,” she says.
In WA around 40 per cent of people living with HIV are men who have sex with men, with the majority being heterosexual men, and women who predominantly acquired HIV outside the state.
Ms Langdon says WA has provided an ideal site for clinical trials of HIV, however accessibility of sexual health testing in the state remains poor.
“If you had to make an appointment with your doctor and you spend a week waiting and you get 5 minutes, sexual health is probably not something that you prioritise,” she says.
“STI’s are not necessarily benign things where you just take a tablet; it can be more complicated than that. Really clinics need to be offering better services to people who have more complicated diseases or infections.”