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Sexual health conference focusing on COVID impact

Over 700 HIV and sexual health experts are gathering this week for the joint Australasian HIV & AIDS and Sexual Health Conferences, this year held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and run by the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM).

The pandemic has forced Australia’s top experts in HIV and sexual health to drastically rethink the national response.

“HIV and STIs haven’t gone away during COVID,” said ASHM CEO Alexis Apostolellis.

“Not only that, we’re in uncharted territory when it comes to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on HIV and STIs, both behaviourally and epidemiologically.

“It is more important than ever that we have the opportunity to meet like this, to share information and ideas, and the fantastic conference turnout even during this challenging year demonstrates the amazing dedication of Australia’s HIV and sexual health workforce.”

Research about the impact of COVID-19 dominates this year’s program, with experts examining how HIV and STI services, prevention, treatment, and education have had to adapt to the widespread public health measures implemented.

Experts are also reflecting on how the COVID-19 response in Australia has been informed by the country’s world-leading response to HIV, with many top HIV and sexual health specialists also playing influential roles in shaping COVID-19 public health measures.

Significantly, sessions throughout the conference are also focusing on the changing ways Australians are having to manage their sexual health during social distancing.

“One of the key lessons of Australia’s HIV response is that the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in our communities tend to be the people hit hardest during a pandemic,” said Dr Jason Ong, ASHM Board Member and Conference Co-Chair.

“These are exactly the kinds of lessons we must keep in mind as the COVID-19 pandemic continues into its second year.”

The conference is currently underway, from 16–20 November.

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