Broadening access to HIV medicine will improve the lives of people living with HIV and will go a long way towards ending HIV in New Zealand. PHARMAC has proposed to expand access to medicines for people living with HIV by removing the CD4 threshold. This sort of expanded access to HIV medicine can reduce the chance of people living with HIV developing a serious illness, or dying, by 57%. It also substantially reduces the chance of onward transmission.
Rainbow Labour supports this proposal as it is in-line with our policy of providing the necessary support to end HIV in New Zealand by 2025. You can read our submission here.
Studies have shown that providing timely access to HIV medicines to people living with HIV can reduce the chances of dying or developing serious illness by 57%. That is why the World Health Organisation, recommends early access to HIV medicines, along with the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine, the British HIV Association, and the European AIDS Clinical Society.
A study in Australia has shown that regular testing and early access to HIV medicine can dramatically reduce the rate of onward transmission. In their 2015 paper, Gray, et al. reported that, in Australia, the roughly 25% of people living with HIV who are either un-diagnosed, or who are diagnosed but are not on HIV medicine, contributed to more than 83% of all new HIV infections.
However, the second leg of the campaign to end HIV has yet to be won. While early testing and broadened access to medicine will help reduce the rate of onward transmission, it is important to provide pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to those who are at risk of become exposed. In government, Labour pledges to restore the health budget cuts which are necessary to fund the provision of HIV PrEP medicines.