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Lack of early HIV treatment funding "outrageous"

Sat 17 Sep 2016 In: New Zealand Daily News View at Wayback View at NDHA

Jason Myers The continuing inability of HIV-positive to begin drug treatment as soon as their physicians would recommend has been called "outrageous" by the new Executive Director of the NZ AIDS Foundation. Although the use of medications to control HIV infection has been shown world-wide to have benefits if started as soon as possible after a person becomes infected, and clinicians in this country have promoted early use to bolster an infected person's health and to lessen the chances of him passing on his infection to others, the government drug-funding agency is holding out. That agency, Pharmac, currently only sees funding for immediate access to HIV medications, which continue to be expensive for individuals to pay for, as a medium priority and will still not fund them until there has generally been a significant deterioration of an infected person's immune system. Jason Myers, who stepped into the NZAF top job ten weeks ago, says leadership in this area is "absent" and the affected communities, primarily gay and bi men, must hold the government to account. He says the Ministry of Health's HIV action plan dates back to 2003 and is "totally out of date." For instance, in the early 2000s lowering the level of people's level of HIV in their bodies was not seen as a serious and important element of HIV prevention programmes, but now it is. Myers says in the absence of political will at government level more leadership needs to come from the community and community-based organisations as the NZAF. His predecessor, Shaun Robinson, said on his final day at the NZAF that if Pharmac hadn't made the medications available from the time of diagnosis within three months, a period which runs out in two weeks' time, the glbti communities should be getting "very angry." Myers agrees with Robinson but says he is not yet 100% sure who or what should be the target of that anger. "I'm not sure if the best target is Pharmac or the government, but rest assured we are going to mobilise on this, we are drafting up a community petition to try to get some traction on this issue." He says he is finding it difficult to get answers on why funding the the early treatment is not in place yet or being given higher priority but feels it is time the community started to "make more noise."    

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Saturday, 17th September 2016 - 10:48pm

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