Melbourne is well on its way to making AIDS a thing of the past as the city marks World Aids Day on 1 December, but major challenges lie ahead to extend this success across Victoria.

Melbourne is a Fast Track City, committed to the targets of having 90% of people living with HIV diagnosed, 90% of people diagnosed receiving anti-retroviral treatments and the HIV virus being suppressed in 90% of people receiving treatment.

The city is on track to meet or exceed these targets thanks to coordinated public health response. GPs have played a crucial role, especially those who are able to prescribe the anti-retroviral treatments which have been so successful in making HIV a chronic but manageable condition.

70 GPs in Victoria currently hold s100 prescriber status for HIV drugs, only nine of whom practice outside of metropolitan Melbourne. This means most people living with HIV outside the city rely on infrequent visits from specialists, or travelling long distances themselves for treatment.

“Having a local GP that people can see regularly about their condition and build a relationship with could make a huge difference for HIV diagnosis, treatment uptake and adherence in rural and regional Victoria,” North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network CEO Adj/Associate Professor Christopher Carter said.

A/Prof Carter said increasing the number of s100 prescribing GPs outside Melbourne is a key priority for the NWMPHN-led Victorian HIV Hepatitis Integrated Training and Learning (VHHITAL) program.

VHHITAL provides s100 prescriber courses for GPs, as well as introductory education and training for GPs and other primary care practitioners in the diagnosis, treatment and management of HIV and other BBVs.

Building on successful forums held in other regional areas over the past year, VHHITAL is partnering with the Centre for Excellence in Rural Sexual Health to present a free forum on BBVs and STIs in Shepparton.

Open to all healthcare professionals, the forum will cover local trends in BBVs and STIs, issues for particular community groups, pre-and-post exposure prophylaxis options and much more.

Full details and registration for local health professionals are available at https://nwmphn.org.au/event-detail/bbvs-and-stis-whats-all-the-fuss-about/a085800001bDlDvAAK/

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