New international HIV treatment guidelines which recommend people with HIV should consider going on HIV treatment from first diagnosis have been applauded by a peak Australian HIV body.
The National Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS (NAPWA) has welcomed a US Department of Health and Human Services report which recommends that all people with HIV should consider going on anti-retroviral treatment, whether recently infected or in the more advanced stages of the condition.
The guidelines — developed by a panel of scientists, clinicians and community experts — are the main reference used in Australia to help doctors and patients with HIV make decisions about their treatment.
NAPWA president Robert Mitchell said an early treatment option is important to help prevent further HIV transmission.
“It is increasingly clear that untreated infection is bad for the health of people living with HIV, whether their infection is recent or long-term,” Mitchell said.
“We also think that people with HIV will value the added benefit of being on treatment in helping reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to others, when used with other proven prevention measures like correct and consistent condom use.
“These new treatment guidelines reflect exciting scientific advances in HIV prevention and treatment science over the past 12 months.”
The guidelines recommend that treatment be offered to HIV positive people who are at risk of transmitting the virus to sexual partners.
Mitchell said there is an urgent need to ensure all people with HIV understand HIV treatment and its role in transmission prevention.
“Many people with HIV are simply not aware of these changes. And there are concerns that people who are HIV positive may not know their HIV status, or may not be in regular contact with the medical system,” he said.
“The place to start is by having a conversation with an experienced HIV doctor and by getting information from their local HIV organisation.”
NAPWA said it will urge the federal Health Department to remove barriers it says prevent some people with HIV from accessing treatments.
“Disincentives to taking HIV treatment need to be addressed, including the financial burden of dispensing fees for HIV-related medicines and making HIV treatments accessible through community pharmacies.”