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AIDS among Aborigines spreading

Australia's Aborigines are threated with an epidemic of the AIDS virus after being left behind in the nation's decadelong fight against the disease, an official report said Wednesday.

Stung by the findings, the government immediately said it would spend $9.4-million over two years to curb the growing incidence of the human immunodeficiency virus among indigenous people.

"It is sobering to reflect on the fact that it is 15 years into the epidemic and only now are we truly addressing the special needs of Aborigines and Torres Strait islanders in a comprehensive and integrated way," said Health Minister Michael Wooldridge.

The report by an AIDS advisory body found rates of HIV infection among indigenous people were rising while rates for the rest of the population were falling. It blamed poor basic health services and a relatively high rate of sexually transmitted diseases in Aboriginal communities.

So far, 128 cases of HIV have been reported for indigenous people, including 34 deaths from AIDS, the report said. Aborigines make up 300,000 of the nation's 18-million people. About 480 new cases of HIV are reported in Australia each year.