Browsing articles in "Australia"
23 November 2015
Shawn Clackett

Ridding Asia Pacific of malaria by 2030 achievable with $6 million Australian government funding boost

Australian Members of Parliament

Ms Sharon Claydon MP, Hon Sharman Stone MP, Senator Jenny McAllister and Dr Andrew Southcott MP are four of seven Australian Members of Parliament to visit Vietnam with the Global Fund, to witness firsthand the work done being done to reduce malaria rates in the Asia-Pacific Region

Mr. Bill Bowtell, Executive Director of Pacific Friends of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has warmly endorsed the Turnbull government’s plan to rid the Asia Pacific of malaria by 2030.

At the East Asia Summit held in Kuala Lumpur over the past weekend, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that the Australian government will provide an additional $6 million towards the East Asian regional plan to eradicate malaria from the Asia Pacific.

“The Prime Minister’s commitment is both practical and visionary. The eradication of malaria will not only save millions of people from preventable suffering and early death, but also provides a stimulus to economic growth and promotes health security for our friends and neighbours”, said Mr. Bowtell. “We hope that Prime Minister Turnbull will continue to serve as Co-Chair of the Asia Pacific Leaders’ Malaria Alliance (APLMA) in order to oversee the implementation of this exceptional policy commitment”.

Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease. It is preventable and treatable, however it still claims over 50,000 lives each year in the Asia Pacific region.

“Between 2000 and 2013, thanks to increased funding and better strategies, the global malaria mortality rate has fallen by almost 50%, but we are seeing the emergence of new forms of drug-resistant malaria, especially in the Mekong region”.

This presents new challenges, but with increased funding of new treatments and preventive measures, eradication of malaria in the Mekong region is now an achievable goal.

Malaria – at a glance

  • Malaria is caused by a parasite called Plasmodium, which is transmitted via the bites of infected mosquitoes.
  • If not treated, malaria can quickly become life-threatening by disrupting the blood supply to vital organs.
  • Malaria is preventable and treatable.
  • Malaria claims over 50,000 lives each year in the Asia Pacific region and 600,000 globally.
  • New drug-resistant forms of malaria are emerging, especially in the Mekong region.
  • Preventive measures like the use of insecticide and mosquito nets have helped reduce mortality from malaria.
  • Improved funding and strategies reduced the global malaria mortality rate by almost 48% between 2000 and 2013.
  • Children and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable. In 2013 over three-quarters of all malaria deaths were in children under the age of five.

Half of the world’s population remains vulnerable to malaria. The Global Fund is a 21st-century partnership organization designed to accelerate the end of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria as epidemics. Founded in 2002, the Global Fund is a partnership between governments, civil society, the private sector and people affected by the diseases. The Global Fund raises and invests nearly US$4 billion a year to support programs run by local experts in countries and communities most in need.

Prevention

Prevention involves the distribution of insecticide-treated nets, the use of indoor residual spraying of households and, if appropriate, interventions targeting the larval stages of the mosquito. For example, in Sri Lanka, larvivorous (larvae-eating) fish were introduced to bodies of water where mosquitoes normally breed. Through the middle of 2015, programs supported by the Global Fund had distributed 548 million nets to protect families. Sleeping under an insecticide-treated net halves malaria cases among children.

Treatment

As of mid 2015, programs supported by the Global Fund had provided 515 million treatments for malaria. In the last decade, we have seen the introduction of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs), a new generation of antimalarial treatment that are highly effective. Unfortunately, however, we are already seeing resistance to the key ingredient, artemisinin, (as well as the partner drugs) develop in certain parts of the world. This is one of the great challenges facing us in the fight against malaria.

4 March 2014
Shawn Clackett

Andrew Wilkie MP Joins Fight to End Tuberculosis

Andrew Wilkie MP joined anti-poverty campaigners at Parliament House this week to support the end to one of the world’s deadliest and oldest diseases – tuberculosis.

maree and andrew

Ms Maree Nutt, CEO of Results and Mr Andrew Wilkie MP

Volunteers and staff from RESULTS International (Australia) met with the Independent Member for Denison to discuss several issues including ending the scourge of tuberculosis and improving education in the Asia-Pacific.

Anti-poverty advocates Maree Nutt, Camilla Ryberg, Sarah Kirk, and Gina Olivieri went into bat for The Global Fund to Fights AIDS, TB & Malaria, asking Mr Wilkie to call on the Abbott Government to make a donation of just $200 million to the lifesaving financial institution.

Over a million people die from tuberculosis each year worldwide, more than half of these deaths occur right on Australia’s doorstep.

Mr Wilkie has been a long-time supporter of the grassroots organisation since 2010 and makes his office and resources available whenever they visit Canberra to champion their causes.

The campaigners also asked Mr Wilkie to write to Treasurer Joe Hockey and Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop to get the Government to commit to effective and cost-efficient nutrition and education programs that will build economic resilience in the Asia-Pacific.

Globally, there are still 57 million children not in primary school, with the Asia-Pacific accounting for over half of all the world’s illiterate adults.

Mr Wilkie MP said: “I welcome RESULTS and their campaigning for more Government action to improve our region’s health and prosperity. If the Foreign Affairs Minister wants better value for our aid dollars, she needs to commit to developing a nutrition and education strategy for our foreign aid program and to support the Global Fund even more.

“A more prosperous region means a more prosperous Australia,” Mr Wilkie added.

Maree Nutt, CEO of RESULTS, said: “We are very grateful for Mr Wilkie’s support in the fight against TB and education. With recent cuts to the foreign aid budget we need every MP and Senator in our corner to win this battle.

“Investing in credible organisations like the Global Fund and developing smart, cost-effective strategies to improve education standards, will not only save hundreds of thousands of lives, but it will save us millions of dollars,” Ms Nutt added.

RESULTS staff and volunteers will meet with 18 MPs and Senators in just two days.

RESULTS works closely with federal parliamentarians and their constituents to generate the public and political will to end extreme poverty.

20 November 2013
Guest Contributor

ICAAP11 Opens in Bangkok

By Dr Timothy West, Pacific Friends of the Global Fund representative at ICAAP11

ICAAP11-PFGF-representatives

Representatives of Pacific Friends of the Global Fund check-in to ICAAP11 in Bangkok

BANGKOK – The 11th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP11) opened today at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre. With a theme of “Reaching Triple Zero: Investing in Innovation”, the conference will examine the particular challenges of the Asia-Pacific context in reaching the UNAIDS vision of zero new infections, zero AIDS-related deaths and zero discrimination. While these specific challenges vary greatly from country to country, common issues include the impending expiry of the UN Millennium Development Goals in 2015, the need to better engage with communities at increased risk of HIV/AIDS, the importance of evidence-based policy such as early test/treat, the need for legal reform, and ethnic and sexual discrimination.

High-level presenters at the conference include Yingluck Shinawatra, Prime Minister of Thailand, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, President of Fiji and Nafsia Mboi, the Indonesian Health Minister and Chair of the Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. There is a diverse Australian delegation, including representatives of the Australian government and executives and staff members from organisations including ACON, AFAO and the Burnet Institute amongst others. Pacific Friends of the Global Fund is represented by Chris Puplick, advisor to the NSW Health Minister and former federal senator, Shawn Clackett, communications and administrative officer, Dr Timothy West and Dr Jeremy Law.

ICAAP occurs biennially in odd-numbered years, alternating with the International AIDS Conference, the worldwide top-level HIV/AIDS symposium. The Australian Government is a Platinum Sponsor of ICAAP11. With Melbourne hosting the AIDS 2014 conference in July 2014, the upcoming Global Fund replenishment round and the impending visit to Australia by Aung San Suu Kyi for World AIDS Day 2013, ICAAP11 is a valuable opportunity to raise the profile of Australia’s response to HIV/AIDS and to set the agenda for AIDS 2014.

25 October 2013
Shawn Clackett

HIV is increasing — but the Grim Reaper ad wouldn’t help

Article from Crikey – OCTOBER 21 2013
Written by Henry Belot Freelance journalist

Grim Reaper

Australia’s leading sexual-health experts are calling for an end to complacency as new research reveals HIV diagnoses are increasing at an alarming rate.

The research, released today by The Centre for Social Research in Health and The Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales, reports that young homosexual males are increasingly likely to engage in unprotected anal intercourse with casual partners and that the number of new HIV diagnoses increased by 10% in 2012 — the largest annual increase since the HIV epidemic of the late 1980s. An estimated 25,708 people were living with a diagnosed HIV infection in Australia at the end of 2012.

Does the 10% increase in diagnoses mean more people are being tested for HIV, or that more people are becoming infected? Associate Professor David Wilson, director of the Kirby Institute, says although some of the increase can be put down to more cases being caught, “better testing simply cannot explain the magnitude of these rising rates”.

In fact, the 2013 Annual Report of Trends in Behaviour, produced by the Centre for Social Research in Health, reports a gradual downward trend in the proportion of gay men who have ever undertaken HIV testing, although the proportion remains above 85% nationally, according to the Gay Community Periodic Surveys (GCPS). The proportion of gay men who reported four or more sexually transmitted infection tests in the previous year increased from just 15.5% in 2003 to 37.1% in 2012.

The Kirby Institute’s Annual Surveillance Report 2013 reports that the rate of new HIV diagnoses has increased every year since 1999 despite a period of consistent decline from 1987-1999. While increases vary by state, only South Australia has remained relatively stable over the last decade. In Queensland, diagnosis rates have increased from 4 cases per 100,000 people during 2003-07 to 4.9 cases per 100,000 people in 2008-12. In Victoria the rate has risen from 5 to 5.3 diagnoses per 100,000 people during the same period, from 3.1 to 4 diagnoses in Western Australia, and from 1.4 to 2.8 cases per 100,000 people in Tasmania. In NSW, the rate of diagnosis declined from 6.3 people infected per 100,000 population in 2003 to 4.7 in 2010, only to climb to 6.2 in 2012.

Of course, diagnosis rates can only be informed by those who undertake testing and treatment. Associate Professor Edwina Wright, an infectious disease physician at the Alfred Hospital and a clinical researcher at the Burnet Institute, estimates that between 5000 and 10,000 Australians infected with HIV don’t know it and are therefore not accessing treatment. An anonymous HIV prevalence study of gay men in Melbourne, published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, suggests that close to a third of gay men with HIV might not know they have it.

Source: Kirby Institute (2013), “HIV, viral hepatitis and sexual transmissible infection in Australia”

One potential cause of the nationwide increase in new HIV diagnoses is the growing rate of unprotected anal intercourse between casual partners (UAIC), particularly among men aged 25 years or younger. The research, based on GCPS data, concludes that 38.3% of all gay men with casual partners reported UAIC in the preceding six months — a trend that has been gradually and unevenly increasing for 10 years. Significant increases were recorded among those aged 25 or younger, with 35% of respondents reporting UAIC in 2012, compared with 30% in 2003.

Source: Centre for Social Research in Health (2013), “Annual report of trends in behaviour 2013”

Wilson believes young people don’t seem to be hearing the message that people received during the late 1980s and early 1990s. He told Crikey that while educating the general population might not be cost-effective and targeted enough, “we need to fundamentally rethink how we reach young gay men as they come out and start their sexual lives”.

But we don’t necessarily need to return to the controversial Grim Reaper-style campaigns of the late-1980s. Professor John de Wit, director of the National Centre in HIV Social Research at the University of NSW, told Crikey “there is no evidence whatsoever in any sector of health promotion that shock tactics work, because people get defensive and think that it won’t happen to me. What does work is a more sophisticated dialogue with people that says that HIV might actually affect you personally.”

Thirteen years of increasing HIV diagnosis rates would suggest, however, that that dialogue is not happening. “This underscores the importance of tailored information for younger men who have a different experience of the HIV epidemic and are better reached via different information networks, such as social and electronic media,” de Wit said.

So who does this responsibility fall to? Bill Whittaker, a special representative of the National Association for People Living with HIV/AIDS, says it is the government’s responsibility to make sure the message is being heard. In July Australian health ministers made renewed attempts to address the problem by endorsing targets of reducing the sexual transmission of HIV by 50% and increasing treatment uptake by 90% by 2015.

“The first thing the new government needs to do is put in place a bold national strategy that reflects ambitious prevention and treatment targets. These strategies need to be about getting people to be tested regularly. If they’re positive, then to tell people about the new science and the benefits of treatment and of course, to galvanise the medical health community around new science and to build momentum,” Whittaker told Crikey.

18 September 2013
Shawn Clackett

On the Road with HIV Cure Research

Blog by Professor Sharon Lewin on the Huffington Post
Head of the Department of Infectious Diseases, Monash University and Alfred Hospital
AIDS 2014 Local Co-Chair
.

Part One: Denver Via Stockholm

Professor Sharon Lewin

As I flew out from Stockholm to Denver last Wednesday it occurred to me how far we had come in HIV Cure research since the International AIDS Society held the first HIV Cure workshop at the AIDS 2010 conference in Vienna.

I’ve been in Stockholm this week speaking on how a group of cancer drugs called HDAC inhibitors can activate latent HIV at an HIV Cure conference organised by the Karolinska Institutet and all of us who attended have come away feeling energised and encouraged.

All the portents were there – brilliant sunshine in über sophisticated and eco-friendly Stockholm all week and a venue steeped in history and tradition. The conference was held in the Nobel Forum where the recipients of the Nobel Prize in Medicine give their talk each year – it was a privilege to speak there this week and inspiring at the same time.

The Karolinska Institutet has of course, been a major leader in the HIV response from the very early days of the epidemic. Yet it is also fair to say that until very recently the organisation had not considered HIV cure as a research priority. This week’s meeting was arranged to generate interest in the field and to move it higher up the organisation’s agenda. I think the fact that, Anders Hamsten, President of the Karolinska Institutet, addressed the meeting was certainly a good sign. So too was the program which was notable for its very impressive line up of speakers from the US and Europe including Steve Deeks, David Margolis, Bob Siliciano, and Christine Rouzioux. Nice too to see my Australian colleague Sarah Palmer presenting. I’m proud that Australia is playing a significant part in the search for an HIV Cure.

The meeting was very animated with lots of discussion and at times controversial! Bob Siliciano suggested that HDAC inhibitors might not activate “real” virus or enough virus to eventually lead to a cure! That got people talking as you can imagine.

I was also greatly encouraged by the fact that the media were present at the event -I feel passionately that we scientists need to be constantly informing the public in a measured way what it is we are attempting to do and the challenges we face. While these are undoubtedly exciting times we should never lose sight that the search for an HIV Cure is indeed a long haul and will require a great innovation, sustained level of funding and political commitment.

Denver was a total contrast to Stockholm – grey, drizzly and missing that Swedish style- but I digress.

The annual Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICACC) always attracts a broad attendance of infectious diseases specialists and I believe it is a sign of the times that a session devoted to an update on antiretroviral therapy was so prominent in its program. I gave an overview of HIV Cure research – where we’ve been and we’re headed – and though this is certainly not the first time I’ve delivered such a talk, it is nevertheless emboldening that each time I prepare this particular presentation I can add an extra piece to the HIV Cure puzzle. In Denver my PowerPoint included the results of the Boston Patients, first delivered at the recent International AIDS Society conference in Kuala Lumpur.

An update on one of the CCR5 gene therapy studies done in collaboration with Sangamo was presented here in Denver but this time the participants had a natural partial mutation to CCR5. The study showed that 2 of 6 participants who received CCR5 gene therapy controlled their virus off ART to low levels so we might be looking at two further cases of functional cure! Although it is still early days. Full results of these studies are expected by around the end of 2013.

It is now back to Australia for me to put the finishing touches on the planning of some preparatory meetings in Sydney in October for next year’s AIDS 2014 conference in Melbourne. I look forward to seeing colleagues and in particular my International Co-Chair Françoise Barré-Sinoussi. Preparations for the conference are moving ahead smoothly and the event is already generating a lot of excitement amongst our stakeholders. Stay tuned for some major announcements on World AIDS Day!

Professor Sharon Lewin in the Lab

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Pacific Friends operates as a program within the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales.

Pacific Friends

Professor Janice Reid AC
Chair
Bill Bowtell AO
Executive Director

Pacific Friends of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is a high-level advocacy organisation which seeks to mobilise regional awareness of the serious threat posed by HIV & AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria to societies and economies in the Pacific. In pursuing its goals Pacific Friends has a specific interest in highlighting the need to protect the rights of women and children in the Pacific.

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