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Minister Ley, does the health of 42% of Australians matter?

1,016
Supporters

#saveAIVL

Forty-two percent of the Australian population aged 14 and over (approximately 8 million people) have used illicit drugs at some point in their life[1]. 2.9 million Australians report having used an illicit drug in 2013 alone[2]. Like any other section of the community, people who use drugs have families, friends and colleagues, and the rate of illicit drug use in Australia means that many if not most people have some connection to a person who uses drugs.

AIVL is the only national organisation that directly represents the interests and experience of the 42% of Australians who use or who have used illicit drugs. AIVL plays a crucial role in advocating for harm reduction in Australian government drug policy and is an active contributor to national strategies aimed at addressing blood-borne virus rates.

As a peer-based organisation, a key aspect of AIVL’s work is the development of peer education resources and training modules designed to empower drug users to take charge of their own health and act as peer educators able to actively reduce drug-related harms within their communities.

AIVL not only gives a voice to a highly stigmatised community, it is also uniquely placed to provide evidence-based advice to government to help meet national health goals, and has been doing so for the past 25 years. 

The Australian Government identifies people who inject drugs as a key priority population for 4 out of the 5 national strategies targeting blood-borne viruses and STIs. However, recent changes to funding arrangements have left AIVL in a position where its future in in doubt.

These new arrangements:

  • explicitly exclude funding for activities aimed at educating people who inject drugs on testing and treatment for hepatitis C and promoting safer injecting practices
  • eliminate the capacity of people who inject drugs to contribute to government inquiries, standing committees and advisory bodies
  • significantly reduce the ability of government bodies to produce evidence-based policy
  • remove AIVL’s capacity to contribute to ending HIV amongst injecting drug users from highly marginalised communities including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
  • prevent AIVL contributing to reducing the morbidity and mortality of blood borne viruses and STIs and the personal and social impact this has on the Australian community

These arrangements mean that AIVL is unable to reapply for the funding that allows AIVL to carry out its vital work. Without funding, AIVL will cease to exist. Without AIVL, the Australian Government can no longer claim to take a ‘partnership approach’ to BBVs/STIs as a key partner in that response will no longer be at the table.

At a time when Prime Minister Turnbull is urging innovation, ideas and dynamism, securing the future of AIVL is crucial. No other national organisation plays the role AIVL does and no other organisation has the reach and credibility to ensure the dissemination and uptake of critical safer injecting and harm reduction education.

We call on Health Minister Sussan Ley to prioritise the health of the 42% of Australians who will use illicit drugs during their lifetime. We call on the Minister to recognise the significant contribution AIVL makes to evidence-based policy and practice through its connection to the drug user community.

We call on the Minister to ensure that AIVL is funded now and into the future.

Take action! Visit http://www.aivl.org.au/saveaivl/ to help with this campaign.

[1] AIHW 2014. National Drug Strategy Household Survey detailed report: 2013. Drug statistics series no. 28. Cat. no. PHE 183. Canberra: AIHW.

[2] As above.

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