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ASHM Report Back
Clinical posts from members and guests of the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM) from various international medical and scientific conferences on HIV, AIDS, viral hepatitis, and sexual health.
APACC conference mood
It is Saturday evening and the conference is over. I have been sitting and reflecting on the experience of the last few days. Our global political climate is becoming more conservative and less inclusive. With summary executions of people who inject drugs in the Philippines, the leader of the opposition in Malaysia still in jail on "sodomy charges" and public whippings of male homosexuals in Banda Aceh, this shift is clearly gathering momentum in South East Asia.
There is so much at stake. The HIV and BBV sector in Health has spent decades studying and sharing the science around harm minimisation and access to healthcare for all. We continue to champion the removal of stigma associated with HIV, sex work, same sex attraction, injecting drug use and transgender health. There are countless studies that show this approach is cost effective. Prohibition and punishment drive these behaviours underground, as people become too fearful of their safety, to access services.
Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at University Malaya Medical Centre, was heading home after the APACC conference, to discuss these issues with a peak group of muftis in Malaysia. She has been examining the Quran and has found many passages of the text that support the compassionate treatment of all people and the use of harm minimisation principles. The tension between religion, health and politics has the potential to derail many of the public health gains we have made to date.
We need to keep reminding our politicians and administrators of the Public Health principles that we know work. It is vital that we use our collective voice to call out stigma and discrimination when we witness it in our workplaces, communities and in the attitudes of our colleagues.