Credit:

Credit: AidsTanzania

Experts state that a risk of an HIV epidemic may arise if conservative Aboriginal communities don't learn from others and start taking drug management measures seriously.

There is fear that indigenous communities in Australia will experience a similar time in Canada a decade ago as they were high number of intravenous drug users with HIV and hepatitis C.

According to Don Baxter, the situation in Australia in the Aboriginal communities was similar to the situation in Canada back in the 1990s. As it is, he said there's already a significant spike in the habits of intravenous drug use in the community without dealing with HIV threat.

During the 1980s and 1990s, HIV infections in indigenous communities in Canada increased from 3.7 per cent to 23.3 per cent of all new HIV infections in the country, said Mr Baxter.

Having led the way to change the attitude of Aboriginal communities regarding safe-sex practices to prevent the spread of HIV, the Anwernekenhe National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HIV Alliance and the AFAO is now trying to do the same with drug use.

High on the list of the Alliance and AFAO's priorities is increasing the availability of clean needles for drug users.

Drug users can find available clean and sterile syringes at Adelaide's Nunkuwarrin Yunti - an indigenous health facility that has a needle exchange program.

According to the manager of the facility's Healthy Options, Promotion and Education (HOPE) program, Christian Wilson, the number of people coming to the facility for clean needles has dropped but this may not be cause for concern - as he believes the equipments are being distributed by people collecting them for the others.

Mr Wilson said, While the number of Aboriginal people who come to us has slightly decreased over the past three years, there is an indication the amount of equipment being distributed has increased during the same period.

Introducing effective needle exchange programs in Aboriginal communities is a challenge, unlike in the mainstream communities, said Mr Baxter, as conservative elders have their mind set on the just say no approach to drugs.

He said, It's definitely a major barrier but I think it's perfectly understandable. They're really in the same place non-indigenous Australians were in the 80s.

What changed the views then about drug use, was the awareness that Bob Hawke's daughter had brought by putting a human face to drug use, as opposed to a stereotype, said Mr Baxter.