Blood Borne Viruses and Sexually Transmissible Infections

The Australian Government Department of Health provides leadership for the coordination of the national response to blood borne viruses and sexually transmissible infections through a number of national strategies and initiatives.

Page last updated: 31 August 2018

Communique from the Human T-Lymphotropic Virus Type-1 Collaborative Forum – August 2018

Human T-Lymphotropic Type-1 (HTLV-1) is a virus that occurs in diverse communities around the world and has been present among Aboriginal people in Central Australia for thousands of years. The type of the virus found in Central Australia, type C, is unique to our part of the world. Preliminary data suggests high rates of this virus in some communities in Central Australia.

Current evidence shows that infection with this virus is not likely to cause disease in a majority of people. International research shows that, in a small proportion of people after many decades, HTLV-1 causes a rare form of leukaemia and/or a spinal cord disease. Studies have suggested associations with other diseases but it is not yet known whether it causes those diseases or not. The true burden of disease of HTLV-1 in our communities needs further research.

On Friday 25 May 2018, Ministers Hunt and Wyatt announced that funding of $8 million from 2018-19 to 2019-20 will be provided to support an enhanced response to communicable diseases in Indigenous communities, including HTLV-1. Funding will be provided to determine appropriate evidence-based responses to HTLV-1 and other communicable diseases in remote Indigenous communities.

On 28 and 29 August 2018, a collaborative forum was held and included representatives from Aboriginal leaders, community and patient representatives, researchers, representatives from Aboriginal community-controlled health services, clinicians, public health officials, and representatives from Commonwealth and state and territory health departments.

The forum is the first step in determining priority activities to improve understanding of the virus, its epidemiology and appropriate public health responses.

The forum reaffirmed the importance of Aboriginal leadership in this process and agreed on the following statement:

The department, working through the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council and its sub-committees, facilitates national policy formulation and coordination for blood borne viruses (BBVs) and sexually transmissible infections (STIs). In particular:

The Blood Borne Viruses and Sexually Transmissible Infections Standing Committee (BBVSS)

The BBVSS is a key advisory body reporting to the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council (AHMAC) through the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) on strategic policy, programs, social issues and activities related to HIV, viral hepatitis and STIs. The BBVSS forms part of a coordinated response across Australian Government, state and territory government, key organisations, peak bodies and national research centres for hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV, STIs and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander blood borne viruses and sexually transmissible infections.

The Australian Government further seeks advice through:

Ministerial Advisory Committee on Blood Borne Viruses and Sexually Transmissible Infections (MACBBVS)

The MACBBVS is the Australian Government’s key advisory body on the national response and management of blood borne viruses and sexually transmissible infections. It is responsible for providing independent and expert advice to the Minister for Health on BBVs and STIs. MACBBVS works as an advisory structure and its key role is to provide specialist advice to inform the Australian Government’s response to BBVs and STIs, identify emerging issues and ways these may be addressed.

More information

Any BBV and STI enquiries should be directed to