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Breakthrough in access to HIV treatment

24 December 2013
Health Minister Jillian Skinner today welcomed the removal of a regulatory barrier which prevents some HIV positive people accessing antiretroviral treatment.
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The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) announced today that subsidised antiretroviral drugs will shortly be available to all HIV positive people, regardless of whether they show clinical symptoms.

Currently the treatment cannot be prescribed under the Federal Government’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) until a patient’s CD4 cell count falls below 500. The CD4 cell count helps measure immune system damage. A normal CD4 cell count in an HIV-negative adult is usually between 600 and 1200 CD4 cells/mm3.

The PBAC decision follows a landmark application from three leading 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. It is estimated about 200 patients each year will benefit from the decision.

Mrs Skinner said restricting access to the antiretroviral treatment had been an impediment in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

“The health and wellbeing of the individual is enhanced by early access to antiretroviral treatment, which also minimises the risk of transmission of HIV to others.

“The Kirby Institute currently estimates that only around 50% of Australians diagnosed with HIV are on antiretroviral treatment. This decision is a major step forward in the fight against HIV. It removes a barrier to early treatment uptake for people with HIV,” Mrs Skinner said.

Key targets of the NSW Government HIV Strategy 2012-2015 include:

  • Reducing sexual transmission of HIV among homosexual men by 60 per cent by 2015 (and 80 per cent by 2020).
  • Decreasing rates of HIV infection in other populations such as Aboriginal people and heterosexuals by 50 per cent.
  • Reducing the average time between infection and diagnosis from 4.5 years to 1.5 years.
  • Increasing to 90 per cent the number of people with HIV on antiretroviral treatment.

For more information, see the NSW HIV Strategy 2012-2015

Image Source: Bruce Notley-Smith MP Twitter Profile

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