Queenslanders with HIV will soon get access to free medication
Queensland Health Minister Shannon Fentiman has announced the government will remove co-payments to make HIV medication free for everyone, regardless of their Medicare eligibility.
Fentiman made the announcement on Thursday. She was speaking at the closing ceremony of the 12th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Science in Brisbane.
All Queenslanders living with HIV will soon get access to antiretroviral therapy medication for free. The co-payments for the medication will be waived from October, Fentiman said.
“Regardless of Medicare eligibility, people living with HIV in Queensland will have access to free, life-changing HIV medication,” she explained.
Queensland Health services and community pharmacies will continue to provide the medication.
Fentiman said the move will support the most vulnerable and dramatically boost the state’s efforts towards ending transmission.
“As Queensland’s Health Minister, I want to see us end HIV transmission by 2030 and have zero HIV stigma and discrimination,” she said.
Shannon Fentiman said of the estimated 5,919 people living with HIV in Queensland, 91 per cent know their HIV status.
“Our more vulnerable groups in society, whether by age, gender or socio-economic status, are the ones who have their health service access most compromised by co-payments,” she said.
“By removing cost barriers, we can increase treatment adherence and reduce transmission risk within the community.”
Fentiman said the move is an important step towards “providing everyone with equitable access to safe and affordable healthcare.”
Other states should follow, advocates say
Queensland Positive People President Mark Counter applauded the “incredible” and “generous” move to waive the co-payments.
“Soon all people living with HIV in Queensland, including the most vulnerable, will be able to achieve an undetectable viral load,” he said.
When successful treatment reduces the virus in someone’s body to undetectable levels, they can’t transmit it to others.
“[The removal of co-payments is] not just a fantastic outcome for public health but a major step forward in reducing the stigma felt by all people living with HIV across Queensland,” Mr Counter said.
He urged all states and territories in Australia to follow suit. He said all governments should provide free and equitable access to medications to everyone living with the virus, regardless of Medicare status.
‘Last mile’ towards ending HIV transmission
In December last year, Queensland joined the Fast Track Cities network. The state has committed to the “virtual elimination” of HIV by 2030.
Queensland Council for LGBTI Health Vice President Dr Bernard Gardiner also said removing financial barriers was a crucial step.
“People living in precarious and marginalised circumstances urgently need this relief to live on, and live well, with HIV,” he said.
“Removing financial barriers to treatment and care is a critical milestone as we travel the challenging last mile towards zero new transmissions.”