The NSW Government today announced two groundbreaking initiatives to dramatically slash the number of visits to hospitals needed by HIV positive people.

State Health and Medical Research Minister Jillian Skinner announced that people with HIV will be able to have their medications delivered to their home or workplace or to be picked up from participating pharmacies, rather than having to visit hospital pharmacies.

“The Enhanced Medication Access Scheme will give people living with HIV better access to treatments than ever before,” Skinner said.

“Not only will we be improving access to these life-saving treatments but we hope that with more people with HIV on treatments we will be able to simultaneously lower the number of new infections.”

A fee to recover courier and handling costs will be charged for deliveries to locations other than participating pharmacies, however, the Star Observer understands the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation will cover some costs.
The first pharmacies taking part in the scheme are the Serafim Pharmacy and Bill Warner Chemist in Darlinghurst, Marrickville’s Blooms the Chemist, the Enmore 7 Day Pharmacy, Neutral Bay Pharmacy, and Priceline pharmacies in Lismore and Surry Hills.

Positive Life NSW president Malcolm Leech said the scheme was an innovative and comprehensive response to delivering treatment.

“This will be particularly helpful for people with HIV who live in outer metropolitan and regional areas and need to travel long distances to a hospital pharmacy,” Leech said.

“It will also greatly assist individuals who have difficulty taking time off work to collect their HIV medications.”
To access the scheme, people will merely need to fill out a form with their doctor.

The scheme is an initiative of the Albion Street Centre.

Skinner also announced the formation of a taskforce to pursue further measures to make access to treatment easier.

The taskforce will report to the Ministerial Advisory Committee on HIV and STI Strategy (CAS).

Those who have been invited to sit on the taskforce include CAS chair Dr Roger Garsia, Australasian Society for HIV Medicine CEO Levinia Crooks, St Vincent’s Hospital head of Clinical Immunology Professor Andrew Carr, Albion Street Centre director Professor Julian Gold, ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill, Positive Life CEO Sonny Williams, and representatives from the NSW Ministry of Health.

ACON CEO Nick Parkhill told the Star Observer the initiatives were a fantastic step forward.

“This has been an issue that we have been advocating on for quite a while, so we’re thrilled the NSW Government has taken this step,” Parkhill said.

“This changes the landscape for HIV positive people. It really takes away a lot of those barriers around treatment and access so this is a very welcome move by the NSW Government and we’re thrilled that they’re doing it on World AIDS Day.”

Parkhill said the taskforce would concentrate on removing Commonwealth barriers to access.

“A lot of the regulation around this sits at the Commonwealth level so there needs to be Commonwealth buy-in into changing the system across the country,” Parkhill said.

“This taskforce is about coming up with models and solutions we can take to the Commonwealth to make sure we can get much more flexible schemes happening across the country.”

Positive Life CEO Sonny Williams welcomed the initiatives.

“This means better access and equity,” Williams said. “There are members of the community who are HIV positive whose employers may not know their health status, who will now be able to go to their local pharmacy as if they are just buying a Panadol over the counter. I think it’s a great move.”

“This means that for some people there will be less travel required – we talk about HIV being a chronic manageable disease and this takes us further to that.”

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