Expert expresses concern regarding lack of national conversation on the increasing number of HIV cases in NZ
Stigma and silence about sexual health has seen an increase in the number of New Zealanders contracting HIV, according to a local expert.
While deaths from HIV have declined dramatically due to ever-improving treatment and access to medical care, infection rates are on the increase, according to sexual health physician, Dr Rick Franklin.
According to the latest statistics, there are 3200 Kiwis living with HIV in New Zealand.
Last year 224 new cases of HIV were detected in New Zealand. The majority of those infections (153) were contracted by men who have sex with men (MSM). The number of new infections has increased every year since 2011.
As HIV/AIDS has become more treatable, it’s becoming more difficult to encourage preventative behaviours and regular HIV screening – which is possibly contributing to the higher incidence of the disease, Dr Franklin says.
Without treatment, HIV destroys the body’s immune defences resulting in AIDS and reduced life expectancy.
While prevention would always be the most important factor in tackling HIV, new drugs meant people diagnosed with HIV now had relatively normal lifespans.
“With good medical care and the right medicines life expectancy is almost similar to an uninfected person,” says Dr Franklin.
PHARMAC has announced its funding of a new medication – Tivicay® (dolutegravir), recommended by international HIV treatment guidelines as part of a first line therapy, from November 1 2016. Tivicay is an integrase inhibitor that works by blocking the virus from spreading through the immune system and is a single dose treatment (once-a-day) in combination with other HIV medicines.2,3
Dr Franklin has been using Tivicay to treat Kiwis with HIV for a year on a “patient access programme” basis (meaning the medication was provided free of charge by its developer GSK/ViiV for patients who were ineligible for other funded treatment options).
“The past 30 years have seen significant progress in developing medicines that suppress HIV and its impact on the immune system, and there is still a significant need for new treatment options,” he says.
“Tivicay is a testament to the work of the many people committed to improving the lives of people with HIV,” says GSK medical director Dr Ian Griffiths.
The new medicine’s interaction profile means it can be used with a number of medications, including some used to treat Hepatitis C and other diseases that people living with HIV may suffer from. 2
AIDS Epidemiology Group, Dunedin School of Medicine, Issue 75 – May 2016
PHARMAC Schedule, October 2016
Tivicay (dolutegravir) Data Sheet, GSK NZ Update June 2015
AFAO About HIV. Available at http://www.afao.org.au/about-hiv#.UurD23_xvIU