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International is the new Domestic

Andrew Burry

“As the HIV pandemic surely should have taught us, in the context of infectious diseases, there is nowhere in the world from which we are remote and no one from whom we are disconnected.” (1)

7thNationalStrategyIn 2014, a seminal document was published called HIV and Mobility in Australia: Road Map for Action. This document is of national and international importance; however it was driven by Western Australia where epidemiology since around 2005 began to depart dramatically from the ‘national norm’.

Since its launch, the Road Map has had an increasing impact on the development of our work plans. It has also had an impact on our language. Where we defined our so-called priority populations in terms such as “people from or who travel to high prevalence countries” or “people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds”, we now recognise that HIV and mobility actually encompasses mobile populations, and it isn’t appropriate to define these in our former and simplistic terms. Many more of us are more mobile than ever before, thus making the potential impact of HIV well beyond what is happening only in our own local environment.

The enormous benefits of better and more effective treatments along with new biomedical methods including PrEP have given rise to genuine optimism of an end to HIV infections in Western Australia in just a few years. Yet, such an achievement will prove pyrrhic if we myopically view our responsibility to lie only within our own borders, whilst remaining vulnerable to everything happening beyond.

It is obvious that what happens in our region has a direct impact on us, even if our moral obligation to leverage our wealth and expertise for the benefit of our neighbours is an insufficient motivation. It would seem then, that our response to HIV in Australia must incorporate a response to HIV outside Australia. This isn’t to suggest that Australia is not already making an international contribution, for indeed we are. The issue as I see it is that there is an unnecessary distinction made between domestic and international initiatives, when the case must be made that these need to be more closely linked.

We continue to enthusiastically embrace the Road Map and continue to reference it whenever we can. Nonetheless, it specifically addresses HIV and Mobility IN Australia, and we need to move beyond.


This article was featured in April's eNewsletter.
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(1) IOM ‘Emerging Infections’ 1992: (Taken from – HIV and Mobility in Australia: Road Map for Action)

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