Labor’s backflip support of the government’s increase in prescription medication costs may endanger the lives of people living with HIV, AIDS organisations warned this week.

We’re alarmed about the impact it’s going to have on some people’s pockets and whether they will not fill scripts as a result, David Menadue, vice-president of the National Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS (NAPWA) told Sydney Star Observer.

I anecdotally know that some people will not be as thorough with the kind of medications they fill.

The Labor Party announced this week they would support the federal government’s planned 20 percent rise in the cost of prescription medicines, after opposing the move for the past two years.

Federal opposition leader Mark Latham announced the move was intended to finance other election promises by freeing up $1.1 billion over the next four years, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Menadue said this was extremely disappointing.

We thought that we had an agreement with Labor that they wouldn’t succumb to this pressure from the government, he said. It’s a really sad situation for people with HIV or any chronic illness for that matter, particularly those who are on a low income and are still in the workforce and don’t have a healthcare card.

In their submission to the Senate Select Committee on Medicare in July 2003, NAPWA argued, The effect of any increase in the costs associated with primary health care can be magnified in people with HIV, because of the exceptionally high number of expensive medications which can be needed for symptomatic illness.

The report presented case studies, which estimated a typical monthly medical bill of $414.85 for a positive male in full-time work, and $72 for a positive person on the Disability Support Pension.

These bills will increase from 1 January 2005, with the cost of a script rising from $23.70 to $28.60 and from $3.80 to $4.60 for concession card holders.

Geoff Honnor, executive officer of PLWHA (NSW), said the price rise would have an immediate effect on people living with HIV.

On the face of it, it doesn’t look like a massive amount of money but it does add up, Honnor said. When people are trying to get back to work and get their lives together, it’s another burden they don’t need.

The backflip by Labor was condemned in a statement by Greens candidate for the federal seat of Grayndler, Philip Myers, as a betrayal of the sick and poor on the PBS -¦ to finance their election promises.

Federal Health minister Tony Abbott told ABC’s Lateline on Tuesday the backflip also undermined the Labor Party’s opposition to changes to the PBS under the proposed Free Trade Agreement.

Their reason for opposing the free trade agreement was that they thought it might possibly lead to higher costs for pharmaceutical drugs, but now it seems they don’t really mind about higher costs for pharmaceutical drugs, not that I think the free trade agreement is going to lead to that, Abbott said.

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