Published: 3 June 2017

Editorial: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health

HIV Australia | Vol. 13 No. 3 | December 2015

By guest editors James Ward and Michael Costello-Czok.

It is with great pleasure that we launch the second special edition of HIV Australia dedicated to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health issues.This edition has been produced to coincide with the 2015 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HIV Awareness Week (ATSIHAW) and to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the Anwernekenhe movement, fighting to protect the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people affected by HIV.

After the previous special edition’s success in 2013, this edition comes at a timely point in our contemporary histories for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and HIV.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led response to HIV is at a crossroads; we have the tools to address HIV, but how do we ensure that the latest HIV prevention methods and knowledge is reaching our communities?

Articles in this edition showcase current community-driven programs across the country and highlight actions required to stimulate political action and maintain vigilance and awareness about HIV among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

What actions do we need to take now to safeguard the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities into the future?

Now more than ever, we need to galvanise our efforts in HIV health promotion and prevention – focusing on the new tools we have in the biomedical prevention front, as well as the new information that arises from research – to be able to address HIV appropriately in our communities.

The articles which follow illustrate the great amount of work happening across Australia to address HIV among our peoples, ranging from the HIV Free Generation campaign run by the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council in NSW, to the work being done by the state and territory AIDS Councils and efforts by national community HIV organisations and governments to end HIV.

While these are all good efforts, there are some significant threats to maintaining low HIV rates in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, including: very high rates of sexually transmissible infections (STIs) in many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities; an ever impending threat that HIV will rapidly escalate in our populations who inject drugs; and the threat that HIV will make its way from Papua New Guinea and other neighbouring countries into our communities.

This edition gives us an opportunity to take stock of what is occurring across the country and reflect on where we’ve been and where we need to go to in the future to prevent HIV from being just another health condition in our communities.

What we require is a way to track our progress, to challenge ourselves, to mobilise our communities and for us all to be motivated about our own roles in this story.

We hope this special issue of HIV Australia motivates you to play your part in preventing HIV from taking hold in our communities.

Finally, in closing, this edition would have not been possible without the exceptional efforts of Linda and Finn at AFAO for bringing this all together. Enjoy the read and keep up the great work!

Sincerely, James Ward and Michael Costello-Czok

James Ward is an Indigenous health researcher with more than 17 years’ experience. He is a descendent of the Pitjantjatjara and Nurrunga clans of central and South Australia.

Michael Costello-Czok has over 20 years’ experience working in the community response to HIV. He is Central Arrernte of the Arrernte Nation.