HIV/AIDS community health hit by federal budget
HIV experts are voicing their concerns over the proposed fee to be imposed on Australians when visiting health professionals, come next year.
In the budget announced by Joe Hockey last week, a levy of $7 will be charged when a general patient visits a doctor, gets a blood test or an X-ray from next year.
Rob Lake from the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisation expressed concern about the impact of the new co-payments on gay men who regularly test for HIV.
“The success of our efforts to defeat HIV depend on gay men being willing and able to look after their sexual health, getting a regular HIV test is a critical part of that,” he told MCV.
“For people with HIV, and LGBTI people with other chronic illnesses, a visit to the doctor, a test of some sort or filling a prescription are frequent costs, not occasional costs.
“When these costs become a burden, we see people skip medications or doctors’ visits. Getting and staying well is hard work for many people, we need to help wherever possible,” he said.
Ian Muchamore, President of Living Positive Victoria, told MCV health services took a major and unwarranted hit in the latest budget.
“Our recent study on the barriers to accessing HIV treatment highlighted that there is already considerable unfairness in access to treatment. These budget measures will make a flawed health system even worse for people living with HIV.”
The budget proposals are potentially bad news for the Victorian AIDS Council (VAC), who are planning the implementation of STI testing at their free PRONTO! service.
VAC CEO, Simon Ruth, told MCV:
“While rapid testing would still be free, any confirmatory blood analysis would now have a cost attached. Similarly, any STI screening to occur at PRONTO! would also have a cost.
“We are concerned about the impact this may have upon people deciding to follow up with a STI screening and confirmatory blood tests after a reactive rapid test result,” Ruth said.