Scientists declare ‘the end of AIDS’ as a public health issue in Australia
Scientists in Australia had declared “the end of AIDS” as a public health issue.
The announcement makes Australia one of few countries where the AIDS epidemic has been declared officially over.
Researchers from the Kirby and Peter Doherty institutes and the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations made the announcement, as the number of AIDS diagnoses per year has now fallen so low.
Since the rise to prominence of antiretroviral drugs in the 1990s, the number of those living with HIV whose condition progresses to AIDS, has fallen dramatically.
At the height of the AIDS epidemic, around 1,000 Australians died a year of AIDS-related illness.
The number of people diagnosed with the condition in Australia now has fallen so low that it is no longer recorded, says Professor Andrew Grulich, head of the HIV Epidemiology and Prevention Program at the Kirby Institute.
“These days we don’t even monitor it, it’s a transitory thing for most people; people have AIDS, then they go on treatment and they don’t have AIDS anymore,” he said.
He said the falling number of diagnoses each year was “nothing short of miraculous”.
“It’s pretty much dealt with as a public health issue,” he added.
“The only cases we see of AIDS these days are people undiagnosed with HIV and so they can’t be treated.”
One man who was given three years to live when he was diagnosed with HIV in the 1980s, said he never thought he’d see the end of AIDS.
“I probably always thought it was going to be a death sentence,” he said.
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“The wards were full of people dying, and there were problems with people even delivering food to them, they were pushing food into people’s rooms with the ends of broomsticks, it was a scary time.
“It was a time where we were really battling for our lives, and battling to keep our friends afloat.”
Researchers said the number of late HIV infections diagnosed each year was still an issue, and that people in Australia need to learn to be tested.
Australia continues to operate a controversial system requiring HIV tests for permanent migrants – but the law does not usually does not usually apply to visiting tourists.