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Mob in the margins: HIV and injecting drug use in Victorian Aboriginal communities

Mob in the margins: HIV and injecting drug use in Victorian Aboriginal communities

Aboriginal people in Victoria make up 0.6% of the population, yet are over represented in rates of injecting drug use (11% in Victorian Needle and Syringe Program (NSP) survey), methadone prescription and incarceration, all are risk factors for HIV transmission. At a national level, HIV rates are at similar levels in both Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations, but HIV exposure rates through injecting drug use are six times higher in the Indigenous community.

The Yiaga ba Wadamba project (Woi-wurrung phrase meaning ‘find and renew’), was conducted by VACCHO in partnership with Anex. VACCHO spoke with 69 urban and rural Aboriginal people who inject drugs about their injecting practices, sexual health, and use of health services. Many spoke about the shame, isolation and the stigma they experience as a result of their drug use. Some of the other findings included barriers to accessing sterile injecting equipment and these included service location and hours of operation, a lack of cultural safety, concerns about confidentiality or anonymity and potential or prior experiences of discrimination. Due to the ongoing stigma associated with HIV and injecting drug use, sustained strategic responses in Aboriginal health services can be challenging.
In this presentation, VACCHO will explore some of these challenges and how on-going efforts to keep HIV and harm reduction on the agenda of Aboriginal Community Controlled health sector needs to be inventive and have varied approaches. VACCHO has delivered Aboriginal heath worker training and peer education, developed strong partnerships in harm reduction, developed resources and worked with our member ship to re-orientate service delivery to be more accepting of harm reduction and see that NSPs are a health promotion strategy to keep HIV current. The ultimate aim for these strategies is the reduction of the rates of HIV in Victorian Aboriginal people who inject drugs and embed Blood Borne Virus prevention in Aboriginal health services.


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