New Zealand lagging behind in early treatment of HIV
Newly diagnosed New Zealanders with HIV are being penalised by an outdated CD4 count requirement, says the New Zealand AIDS Foundation.
NZAF says New Zealanders with newly diagnosed HIV infections cannot access medication until their CD4 cell count has dropped below 500.
But NZAF says the CD4 threshold was developed two decades ago and needs to be reviewed.
“The outdated policy was developed when HIV treatments were considered too toxic and something to be avoided until absolutely necessary. But newer treatments are far less toxic," says NZAF executive director Dr Jason Myers.
“All the tools exist to manage HIV and prevent transmission, and making immediate treatment available to people diagnosed with HIV is one of them,” says Myers.
“It is a gross injustice that an individual should be denied treatment that both improves their health and has dramatic impact on their ability to pass on the virus.”
Research shows that those who start treatment early are at least 50 per cent less likely to develop cancers later in life.
When people begin taking HIV medication, the viral load usually becomes undetectable within six months.
The risk of HIV transmission is greatly reduced when people have an undetectable viral load.