Thanks to advances in medical research and treatment medications, people living with HIV are leading long and healthy lives. HIV treatments have improved significantly and there are now many different options available.
Additionally, with advances in HIV testing, we can now detect HIV earlier. Early detection means early access to treatment, which we now know will lead to better health outcomes for people living with HIV. Evidence has emerged that the earlier HIV treatment is started the better the long-term health benefits for people living with HIV. HIV medication also reduces the risk of onward transmission by reducing the quantity of HIV circulating in the body. When levels of HIV in a person’s blood are low they are said to have an undetectable viral load. Treatment of HIV and achieving an undetectable viral load also prevent the onward of HIV transmission to others.
The World Health Organization and Australian HIV treatment guidelines now strongly recommend that HIV treatment should be started among all adults with HIV, regardless of clinical stage and at any CD4 cell count. Evidence has emerged that immediate and early treatment of HIV significantly reduces the risk of disease progression. Clinicians are also recommended to regularly discuss the current state of knowledge regarding when to start HIV treatment with all individuals with HIV who are not yet on treatment. All decisions to start HIV should be made by the individual with HIV, in consultation with their health care providers and on the basis that they are fully informed and supported in their decision making.
The benefits of earlier treatment include:
- Improved long-term health outcomes for people living with HIV preventing disease progression and illness;
- Lower risk of developing resistance to HIV treatment; and
- Reduced risk of onward HIV transmission.
EMERGENCY TREATMENT FUND
The HIV Foundation Queensland has established an emergency HIV treatment and services fund for all people living with HIV (PLHIV) living in Queensland. The HIV Emergency Treatment Fund is a pilot program that will be available until 30 June 2017. The Fund will provide emergency funding for HIV-related treatment and services to people living with HIV (PLHIV) in Queensland, who are experiencing financial hardship after all other avenues of support have been exhausted.
The fund is available for:
- Medicare eligible PLHIV, who are experiencing financial hardship that may cause delay or cessation of treatment such as the inability to pay for co-payments; and
- Medicare ineligible PLHIV who are experiencing financial hardsharp and unable to access HIV services, and early and ongoing HIV treatment.
For more information view the Emergency Treatment Fund.
TREATMENT AS PREVENTION
Medication now plays an important role in prevention. The role of treatment in preventing onward HIV transmission is known as Treatment as Prevention (TasP).
Treatment as Prevention can be split into two parts:
- Medication can be taken by an HIV positive person with the aim of achieving an undetectable viral load and reduce the possibility of onward transmission of HIV.
- Medication can be taken by an HIV negative person in the form of PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis, see below) or PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) to prevent them from acquiring HIV.
What is post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)?
Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is a treatment that may prevent HIV infection following an exposure to infected blood or bodily fluids. Treatment takes the form of a four-week course of medication that is most effective when taken immediately after exposure to HIV, preferably within 24 hours but no later than 72 hours following exposure.
Taking PEP does not guarantee that HIV infection will be prevented, nor will it make people immune to future HIV exposures. However, when taken correctly and within 72 hours, PEP is highly effective at preventing HIV.
PEP must be prescribed by an authorised doctor and is available from all sexual health clinics, s100-prescribing GPs (GPs who are able to prescribe HIV medicine), as well as many public hospital emergency departments in Queensland.
For more information about PrEP visit our Prevention page.