TWO of NSW’s leading community organisations that cater to people living with HIV have welcomed the NSW Government’s implementation of the removal of the co-payment of HIV medication.

Announced as a pre-election commitment by the Mike Baird government before the NSW state election earlier this year, the waiver comes into effect from today (October 1).

[showads ad=MREC]Both ACON and the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation (BGF) have said the removal of the co-payment means people living with HIV (PLHIV) have easier access to prescribed anti-retroviral medications and other highly specialised (S100) drugs.

Cost has consistently been identified as a possible barrier for some in the LGBTI community who bear a financial burden when accessing s100 drugs to treat chronic conditions such as cancer and HIV.

ACON has long advocated for treatment to be made as accessible as possible – which also means as affordable as possible.

“We know that in addition to the co-payment for anti-retroviral drugs for HIV, often people living longer with HIV will also require other prescriptions and thus, the co-payments can add up to a significant cost,” acting ACON chief executive Karen Price said in a statement.

“This decision will remove what can be a significant financial burden on many people living with HIV. There’s no cure for HIV so treatment costs are for life and can add up to many hundreds of dollars annually.

“For those people with HIV living on a disability support pension or other concessional card holders this will be especially welcome news.”

BGF, a charity that supports PLHIV and their families, has supported treatment adherence by funding the co-payment of anti-retro viral medications for those on low incomes. The immediate impact of the state government’s waiver for BGF clients is that all of their other HIV-related illness medication co-payments will also be fully funded.

According to the organisation, each year over 700 people living with HIV from an annual client base of 1250 have accessed this support, making it the largest consumer group of any HIV-based NGO in NSW.

BGF chief executive David Riddell said “as so many of our clients live by themselves and are ageing with HIV, this will continue BGF’s long tradition of providing support that keeps PLHIV well, out of poverty and also out of hospital”.

“The more PLHIV who access a broad range of HIV – and other medical and financial supports – the better their immediate and long term physical and mental health outcomes will be,” Riddell said.

“Another positive outcome of the co-payment change is that BGF will increase financial assistance for HIV medications for those people deemed to be ineligible for Medicare assistance.

“These are people who are often diagnosed late, and at greater risk of poor adherence and health outcomes.”

BGF also stated there will be other changes to how they assist PLHIV who experience health challenges and financial distress.

Meanwhile, ACON praised the NSW Government for delivering on a pre-election promise.

“The NSW Government – and particularly the NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner – has shown outstanding leadership when it comes to HIV,” Price said.

“The goals and targets in the NSW Strategy are leading the way nationally, and the decision to remove the co-payment for HIV medication is another example of how this government has demonstrated it will do what it takes to drive down HIV transmissions in the state.”

ACON’s recent campaign focussed on the latest evidence that showed starting HIV treatment early can  improve the health of PLHIV, and that treatment can also greatly reduce HIV transmission risk.

For more about ACON’s Undetectable campaign, click here or watch here.

For information on how BGF can help make a difference, contact its dedicated Client Services Team.

For details about how the removal of the co-payment will work in practice, click here

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