THE earlier treatment of HIV and the advantages of regular and rapid testing were the keynote topics facing a gathering of specialist clinicians in Brisbane recently.
In conjunction with the Queensland HIV Foundation and the Australasian Society for HIV Medicine, experts, researchers and policy makers were provided a workshop to share developments within the field.
“Every clinician in the country is working towards the common goal of reducing HIV transmission,” Queensland HIV Foundation chair Dr Darren Russell said.
“The workshop will allow us to collaborate and examine new initiatives around testing and the contribution these initiatives have had to public health as well as the individual patient benefit.”
Dr Russell spoke of the efforts by clinicians across the country to come up with effective means to promote proven messages behind earlier treatment and frequent testing despite social barriers.
“Studies continue to find that treatment can greatly reduce a person’s chance of transmitting the virus to a partner,” he said.
The workshop worked on “delivering a common set of themes, cases and examples” that could be used for future education and awareness campaigns.
“The themes centred on the scientific evidence for early treatment and for treatment as prevention (TasP), along with cases of people with HIV where decisions for early treatment may not have been straight-forward. In addition we examined some difficult questions that may arise, in terms of the scientific evidence or lack of it,” Dr Russell told the Star Observer.
Recent news of the “near-impossibility” of transmission from those living with HIV who have an undetectable viral-load and are on treatment, and the implications this may have on unprotected sex was a keen area of interest for the gathering.
“With the ground-breaking decision by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee to lift the restrictions on prescribing HIV medication to those with a higher CD4 (T-cell) count from 1 April this is the perfect time to look at the issue of offering treatment to all those with HIV, especially if they are sexually active and at risk of transmitting HIV,” Dr Russell said.
“Certainly in Queensland we would like this to be one of the themes that the HIV Foundation tries to promote more heavily.”
Dr Russell praised the efforts of the contributing clinicians and experts and said that the discussions will definitely contribute to campaigns and approaches to tackling HIV by the foundation.
“The workshop went extremely well. It was a great initiative of the HIV Foundation, especially coming so soon after we were formed on 1 December last year,” he said.
“One of the main things that came out of it was the necessity to educate the HIV community, the broader gay community, and doctors, about the benefits of early treatment and of TasP.
“We also have achieved some educational objectives in terms of developing cases and the like that can be rolled out around the country in the coming weeks and months.”