Canberra to increase HIV funding, list groundbreaking drug treatment

Canberra to increase HIV funding, list groundbreaking drug treatment

November 27, 2019

Australia’s bid to be among the first countries in the world to eliminate HIV transmissions will take another leap forward on Wednesday with the listing of groundbreaking new drugs on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt will announce that Dovato, a once-daily, single-tablet, two-drug regimen, will be subsidised by taxpayers to provide more choice for Australians managing HIV.

It is estimated that 27,545 people are living with HIV in Australia.

The government will also use a World AIDS Day event in Canberra to announce additional support for people with HIV and other blood-borne viruses and sexually transmissible infections by extending funding to six national peak organisations, providing almost $3 million for 2020-21.

The listing of Dovato from December 1 will mean Australians living with HIV will save more than $8500 a year.

It is estimated that 27,545 people are living with HIV, with nearly 900 new cases diagnosed each year. Recent research from ViiV Healthcare’s Positive Perspectives study found about 72 per cent of those are concerned about the long-term effects of treatment.

National Association for People with HIV Australia’s Robert Mitchell said individual and patient-led care was now more important than ever.

“Successful management of HIV cannot ignore the importance of maintaining a good quality of life – in Australia, it’s not about just surviving anymore, it’s about thriving,” Mr Mitchell said.

Mr Hunt said effective once-daily treatments such as Dovato and other new medicines could control the virus so people could enjoy long, healthy and productive lives.

With the PBS subsidy, people living with HIV will pay just $40.30 per script, or $6.50 with a concession card for Dovato. It contains two active ingredients – dolutegravir and lamivudine – that are used to treat HIV infection in a single tablet form.

The listing follows two large clinical trials that showed HIV could be effectively controlled and sustained with two drugs instead of three or more – giving people diagnosed with HIV the option of avoiding additional toxicity.

Mr Hunt said Australia continued to be a world leader in the response to HIV, with the number of new diagnoses its lowest in nearly 20 years.

“Our success is built on a model of partnership between government, people living with HIV, community-based organisations, health professionals and researchers,” Mr Hunt said.

The Kirby Institute at University of NSW’s National HIV Quarterly notifications for 2014-18 report confirmed 835 HIV diagnoses across Australia in 2018, compared with 964 in 2017. It represents a decline in new diagnoses of 23 per cent in five years – to the lowest number of new diagnoses since 2001.

The University of Adelaide Medical School’s Professor Mark Boyd said: “We know that people who begin HIV treatment early in their infection have better health outcomes than those who begin HIV treatment at a later stage.”

The national HIV strategy aims for the virtual elimination of HIV transmission by 2022.