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Self-testing kit approved for HIV

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The first HIV self-testing kit has been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration and a new HIV medicine has been listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

The Federal Government has also announced funding for a new strategy that it says aims to virtually eliminate the transmission of HIV.

The first HIV self-testing kit, the Atomo Self Test was approved for use by the TGA on November 28. The test is a single-use rapid finger stick test for the detection of antibodies to HIV and will enable people to test for HIV in their own home.

It will make testing accessible and convenient, especially for people that need to test frequently or do not test at all.

The medicine Juluca® (dolutegravir and rilpivirine), which works to stop the replication of the HIV virus, is listed on the PBS from December 1, which is World AIDS Day.

This listing means about 860 people a year will be able to access this medicine that would otherwise cost patients up to $10,800 a year without the PBS subsidy.

Patients will now pay a maximum of $39.50 per script, with concessional patients, including pensioners, paying just $6.40 a script.

“Getting people with HIV on sustained, effective treatment is important not only for the individual’s health but also because people with HIV who take treatment daily, and achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load, have effectively no risk of sexually transmitting the virus,” said Health Minister Greg Hunt.

“I am also pleased to announce that the Government will commit $5 million to support the implementation of Australia’s next National Blood Borne Virus and Sexually Transmissible Infections Strategies”

These include: 

  • The Eighth National HIV Strategy 2018–2022;
  • The Fifth National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander BBV and STI Strategy;
  • The Fifth National Hepatitis C Strategy;
  • The Fourth National STI Strategy; and
  • The Third National Hepatitis B Strategy.

“The Eighth National HIV Strategy will be the roadmap to help further reduce new infections and improve health outcomes,” Mr Hunt said.  

“Its goals include virtually eliminating HIV transmission in Australia by 2022, reducing mortality and morbidity related to HIV and supporting those living with HIV by reducing stigma and discrimination.

“A few short years ago defeating HIV was seen as impossible but today we are on the cusp of eliminating the transmission of HIV.”

In 2017, more than 27,000 people were living with HIV in Australia.

Last year, Australia recorded 963 HIV notifications—the lowest annual number of notifications since 2010.

There has been a reduction of 15 per cent in diagnoses among gay and bisexual men in the past year alone.

“I am proud to say that our Government is taking decisive action with a range of measures to address HIV in our community,” the Minister said.

“These important announcements today come on top of  our Government’s decision this year to list the daily preventative medication known as PrEP on the PBS on 1 April 2018.

“The $180 million listing of PrEP, on the PBS, benefits up to 32,000 patients who would otherwise pay $2,496 a year without the subsidy. By listing PrEP we put Australia in reach of being one of the first countries in the world to end transmission of HIV.

“Since the first HIV diagnosis in Australia more than 30 years ago, our understanding around prevention, transmission and treatment of HIV has improved significantly.”

Australia’s theme for World AIDS Day 2018 is ‘Everybody Counts’. World Aids Day is about ensuring people with HIV can participate fully in the life of the community, free from stigma and discrimination.

The strategies are available on the Department of Health website www.health.gov.au/sexual-health