Government plan aims to stop HIV transmission in New Zealand by 2032

The Ministry of Health has announced an ambitious plan to eradicate HIV transmission within a decade.

The draft 2022 HIV action plan, released for consultation on Saturday, sets out a roadmap to reduce new HIV infections, reduce mortality, tackle stigma and improve outcomes for Maori and other vulnerable populations .

Associate Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall said the plan will include an increase of $18 million for HIV treatment and prevention over four years.

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“Elimination will take a concerted effort, but we know from the Covid-19 experience that we can achieve ambitious elimination targets with coherent and decisive national strategies.

“New Zealand had the first publicly funded national needle and syringe program to help with HIV prevention, and we now also have one of the lowest rates of HIV in the world among people. who inject drugs,” Verrall said.

The rate of HIV transmission in New Zealand has steadily declined since the 1980s.

Recent advances in treatment have also left advocates and clinicians optimistic.

Newer antiretroviral drugs known as PrEP have been shown to reduce the rate of transmission by 99%.

Three-month prescriptions for drugs have increased significantly in New Zealand in recent years, from 199 in March 2018 to 2,839 in June 2022.

And last month, Pharmac expanded drug eligibility, so rather than a set criteria of the patient’s sexual history, doctors can now prescribe the drug based on their judgment.

An estimated 3500 people are living with HIV in New Zealand, leaving around 700 undiagnosed.

The new plan aims to improve the uptake of HIV treatment by expanding access to care and testing, including home testing kits.

It also aims to tackle stigma and discrimination, which are often a barrier to treatment according to University of Auckland sexual health expert Dr Peter Saxton.

“But you have to know where those pockets are that we’re not reaching yet and we’ll never reach zero if in fact people can’t access services,” he told 1News.

“These relationships between the communities most at risk and our health services may have been severed recently, so one of the challenges of the new action plan is to rebuild them.”

According to Joe Rich, CEO of the Burnett Foundation Aotearoa, formerly known as the New Zealand Aids Foundation, the government initiative has been underway for a long time. The latest government action plan against HIV/AIDS was established in 2003.

“It’s something we’ve stood for for a long time.

“We have worked very hard with the health sector … to reduce new transmissions and reduce stigma.

“We have achieved a lot but we have not achieved elimination, so the need for a coordinated and resourced government response is extremely important.

“It’s an ambitious plan but within reach…we have the tools, we just need to make them more accessible.

“And it will take more than the four years of investment that have been set aside.”

Since 1985, there have been 5430 reports of HIV in New Zealand and 757 AIDS-related deaths.

It is estimated that around 3500 people are living with HIV in New Zealand.

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