People with HIV in NSW ineligible for Medicare can now access treatment free of charge

People with HIV in NSW ineligible for Medicare can now access treatment free of charge

From 18 April, individuals with HIV will be able to access treatment by going to government-funded hospital pharmacies.

According to Barbara Luisi, Manager of the Multicultural HIV and Hepatitis Service, ‘HIV treatment must be available for all who need it, regardless of Medicare eligibility.’

‘We welcome the news and believe expanding access to HIV Treatment will benefit people with HIV who are ineligible for Medicare significantly.’

The new treatment access is also consistent with the NSW HIV Strategy (2021–2025) plan for the virtual elimination of the HIV transmission in NSW for all.  The goals of the strategy are to prevent transmission, normalise testing, start and maintain treatment soon after diagnosis and reduce stigma.

‘We believe greater access to HIV treatment will keep people well and prevent onward transmission through effective and affordable treatment as prevention (TasP), to ensure NSW and Australia is on track to meet domestic and global elimination targets.’

Based on the HIV Surveillance Data from the Kirby Institute there were an estimated 29,460 people living with HIV in Australia at the end of 2021. Of these an estimated 91% has been diagnosed. Of those diagnosed at the end of 2021, an estimated 96% of them retained in care with 92% receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART). 

There were an estimated 2,630 people living with HIV in Australian in 2021 who were unaware of their HIV status. The estimated proportion with undiagnosed HIV was highest among people born in Southeast Asia and Latin America (25% each). 

The Australian Government has committed $12.5 million per year to states and territories until June 2026 for HIV treatment for people who are not eligible for Medicare. The initiative is expected to continue beyond 2026. This Guideline replaces compassionate access schemes for HIV access to antiretroviral therapy (ART) operated by pharmaceutical companies.

 To read more about the eligibility criteria, visit NSW Health Guideline HIV Treatment for people in NSW who are not eligible for Medicare.