I was highly critical of the document, chiefly because it lacked firm commitments to community-based HIV prevention as a priority, used unnecessarily obtuse language, and was unclear in who it was aimed at.
I understand that the Declaration has been developed by some of the country’s leading NGOs, researchers and community organisations, and you might be thinking: who the hell are you to criticise their work?
My answer: I am your audience. I am a sexually active gay man, which puts me in a high risk category for acquiring HIV, the very thing you are trying to prevent. I have more friends than I can count – also gay men – who are HIV positive and who keep their status a secret because of discrimination.
If we’re going to make a commitment to something, let’s use the old business cliché of creating goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based.
I believe all of the things outlined in my Alternative Melbourne Declaration on HIV fit those criteria, or at least can be made to do so. I wrote this in half an hour. I would love to hear your thoughts.
THE ALTERNATIVE MELBOURNE DECLARATION ON HIV 2012
Action Area One: Prevention
1. Ensure free condoms and lube readily are available and prominently displayed in all venues where gay men meet; including sex-on-site venues, saunas, bars, clubs and gay-owned businesses
2. Develop a website and smartphone app for ordering of free condoms and lube online
3. Work with councils and local law enforcement to ensure free condoms and lube are accessible at known high-traffic beats
4. Deliver at least three highly-targeted social marketing and behaviour change campaigns based on common objections to condom use
5. Conduct qualitative research into risk-taking behaviour among gay men to further inform future campaigns
6. Develop and recruit a grass-roots community workforce that will encourage and promote open and honest discussion among gay men about their sexual behaviour
7. Evaluate all current HIV prevention campaigns to ensure they are effective and visually representative of those most at risk of contracting HIV
Action Area Two: Testing & Treatment
1. Introduce rapid testing for HIV and syphilis through GPs, sexual health clinics and gay men’s health centres
2. Ensure all people who test positive for HIV have access to fully-funded treatment early and without restriction
3. Introduce limited availability of PrEP treatment to people in specific high-risk categories; eg. those in sero-discordant relationships, people with hypersexuality disorders
4. Extend mental health care plans to fully fund psychological support for people living with and affected by HIV
5. Incentivise GPs to have open and honest discussion with patients about sexual behaviour and to encourage regular STI screenings for sexually active gay men
Action Area Three: Legislative
1. Evaluation of health providers to ensure they are meeting their legal requirements under the Disability Discrimination Act with regards to HIV positive people
2. Decriminalise sex work
3. Remove criminal sanctions around HIV transmission
Action Area Four: Education
1. Fund, develop and implement a long-term, state-wide programme aimed at reducing the stigma around HIV, visibly led by people living with HIV
2. Develop and recruit a grass roots, visible community workforce of people living with HIV to encourage further openness around discussion of HIV and reduction of isolation among HIV positive people