An unbridgeable gap? Comparing the HIV/AIDS epidemics in Australia and sub-Saharan Africa

D. Wilkinson*, G. Dore

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Objective: To compare the HIV/AIDS epidemics in Australia and sub-Saharan Africa, to outline reasons for differences, and to consider implications for the Asia and Pacific region. Methods: Comparison of key indicators of the epidemic in Australia, and Africa viewed largely through the experience of the Hlabisa health district, South Africa. Results: To the end of 1997, for all Australia, the estimated cumulative number of HIV infections was approximately 19,000, whereas in Hlabisa 31,000 infections are estimated to have occurred. Compared with the low and declining incidence of HIV in Australia (<1%), estimated incidence in Hlabisa rose to 10% in 1997. In all, 94% of Australian infections have been amongst men; in Hlabisa equal numbers of males and females are infected. Consequently, whereas 3000 children were perinatally exposed to HIV in Hlabisa in 1998 alone, 160 Australian children have been exposed this way. In Australia, HIV-related disease is characterised by opportunistic infection whereas in Hlabisa tuberculosis and wasting dominate. Surveys among gay men in Sydney and Melbourne indicate >80% of HIV infected people receive antiretroviral therapy whereas in Hlabisa these drugs are not available. Implications: It seems possible that Asia and the Pacific will experience a similar HIV/AIDS epidemic to that in Africa. Levels of HIV are already high in parts of Asia, and social conditions in parts of the region might be considered ripe for the spread of HIV. As Australia strengthens economic and political ties within the region, so should more be done to help Pacific and Asian neighbours to prevent and respond to the HIV epidemic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)276-280
Number of pages5
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


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