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Lessons From Australia

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It has been a fascinating week in Australia planning for the AIDS 2014 conference and one of the highlights has certainly been attending this year's annual Australasian HIV/AIDS conference in sultry Darwin.

The Darwin conference has been a great opportunity to see for myself how excited Australia is about AIDS2014 and just how efficient different communities are already being in their preparations for the event.

AIDS 2014, from all the discussions here, will be an opportunity to showcase how an inclusive national response to the epidemic, with a strong focus on the best science, and a strong focus on fighting stigma and discrimination, can lead to good positive results. AIDS2014 will be a unique opportunity to share different national and local responses to similar epidemics and to discuss their respective efficacy.

But as we have seen this week that by no means implies that Australia is immune to crises: annual statistics presented here in Darwin indicate there is an outburst of HIV in MSM in Australia, with new infections increasing at their highest levels in the past 20 years.

This is of deep concern and we've seen this week some very productive debate both on the causes of the increases in new infections but at the same time I have personally been amazed to see how quickly a myriad of Australian stakeholders have been in planning the response to the crisis.

As AIDS2014 Local Co Chair Sharon Lewin has pointed out, this week's conference in Darwin is also shed considerable light on the inclusive and meaningful place of indigenous communities in Australia's national HIV response, resulting in a controlled epidemic in indigenous communities. I mention it here again because I strongly believe that we need to share examples from indigenous communities around the world at AIDS 2014 if we want to be able to reduce the stigma and discrimination they still face too often.

Last but not least, it has been truly educational to me to see that the Australasian Sexual Health Conference immediately follows on from the HIV conference here and indeed shares the Wednesday equally with the HIV conference.

With AIDS2014 being the last International AIDS Conference before the United Nations' post-MDG plans push us to integrate HIV programs into global health programs, we need to learn from the Australian model here and make sure we do in fact incorporate sexual health and other global health issues such as non-communicable diseases, health system strengthening, law reform and global stigma and human rights, into an AIDS conference that will be even more meaningful and stay relevant as it reflects a multitude of new voices from outside of the sector.