Barrier removed from early treatment of HIV
Low income earning HIV positive people with low viral loads will now be able to seek subsidised early treatment, after the barrier to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) was voted to be removed.
Currently PBS prescribing criteria has not allowed people with HIV who show no clinical symptoms and have higher CD4 counts, to receive PBS-subsidised treatments. The removal of this barrier which will allow more people to seek treatment early, and has been heralded as a major step forward in the fight to end HIV.
The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee’s (PBAC) decision to recommend this change, follows a landmark application from three non-government HIV organisations – the National Association of People with HIV Australia (NAPWHA), Australasian Society for HIV Medicine (ASHM) and the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO), with assistance from the Kirby Institute – who sought give all Australian HIV positive people the option to start HIV treatment if they choose to do so.
“This restriction made no sense in this modern era of HIV treatment. Today, leading guidelines and many expert clinicians recommend people with HIV consider starting treatment earlier to benefit their health and well-being,” said Bill Whittaker, spokesperson for NAPWHA.
“Our joint submission also highlighted that HIV treatment has the powerful added benefit of helping prevent transmission of HIV to others. We emphasise that this works best when used alongside other proven prevention measures - like correct and consistent condom use and provision of clean injecting equipment.”
AFAO ED Rob Lake agrees: “These advances have the potential to dramatically reduce the number of people newly infected with HIV each year. This announcement has been a long time coming – it’s great to see what we can achieve with a concerted collaborative effort on the part of Australian HIV organisations. We can now focus on working toward making ARV therapy more readily available, including through community pharmacies”, he said.
“Recent estimates are that only around 50% of Australians diagnosed with HIV are on the treatments. This is well below the target of 90% coverage endorsed by all Australian Health Ministers last July,” said Associate Professor Edwina Wright, President of Australasian Society for HIV Medicine (ASHM) who chaired the submission Whittaker said.
“By empowering all patients to be able to choose when they want to commence treatment, we are likely to see an increase in treatment uptake.”
Whittaker encouraged GPS with HIV positive patients to refer them on to a specialist for further information and assistance with treatment.