People in Australia who are ineligible for Medicare, such as migrants, will have government-funded access to HIV treatment, Health Minister Greg Hunt has announced.
The $39 million commitment has been welcomed on World AIDS Day by the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) and National Association of People Living with HIV Australia (NAPWHA).
“This is great news for this highly vulnerable group,” said NAPWHA President Scott Harlum.
“HIV positive people without access to Medicare will no longer have to rely on personal importation, drug trials, or compassionate access arrangements to maintain their health.”
Health experts say that equitable access to HIV treatment is necessary for not only the long-term health of individuals but also Australia’s commitment to achieving the virtual elimination of HIV transmissions.
“We are heartened by the Minister’s commitment to end HIV transmission by 2025,” said AFAO CEO Darryl O’Donnell.
“Today’s announcements will make HIV treatment available to all who need it and allow the broader HIV response to continue.”
O’Donnell said that support and resources meant that Australia could be confident of avoiding a sixth decade of the HIV epidemic.
Around Australia, record low new cases of HIV have been recorded as more people take up testing, treatment, and prevention.
Victoria last week reported just 34 new cases of HIV for the third quarter of this year, its lowest quarterly figure in 20 years.
“Since the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen a continued decrease in HIV notifications in Victoria and further afield,” said Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth.
“As we come out of lockdown, we have a unique opportunity before us to maintain that momentum, but testing for HIV is key.
“By getting tested for HIV today, you can look after your sexual health and wellbeing as well as that of your sexual partners.”
Established in the 1980s to provide free healthcare to gay men during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the Centre Clinic is now a general practice for LGBTIQA+ community members and provides specialist care for people living with HIV.