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34 NZers Face Unnecessary AIDs Illness And Death

MEDIA RELEASE: 04/11/03

EMBARGOED TO 6.30PM THURSDAY 4TH DECEMBER 2003

34 New Zealanders Face Unnecessary AIDs Illness And Death Unless We Get The Same Drugs As Australia

“The shocking news that 34 people have run out of treatment options for delaying AIDS illness means we could be facing a return of the grief of losing our loved ones in increasing numbers.” says Kevin Baker, Positive Health Manager of the NZ AIDS Foundation.

New Zealand is currently four antiretroviral drugs behind those available for people living with HIV in Australia. Matt Whyte, a person living with HIV has been told that if he were living there he could have another 10 years of healthy living. Because he lives in New Zealand, he is one of 34 people facing probable illness and death within the next 12 months. The 34 people are just the tip of the iceberg as specialists have advised that without access to these new drugs the number is likely to rise to over 100 by World AIDS Day December 2004.

“It’s clear that the my being a New Zealander is leaving me facing my death, but if I were living in the UK or Australia I would be well, working and living my life to the full” says Matt Whyte.

“NZAF appreciates the pressures Pharmac is under but one of these drugs was approved by Pharmac as high priority in 2002 – and 12 months later nothing seems to have happened. Saving costs is one consideration but saving lives is another”

“ It cost the tax payer over $20,000 for a recent hospitalisation for Matt earlier this year. One year’s supply of Kaletra would cost less than half this amount per year and he could be working, paying taxes and contributing to society – it is hard to see the sense in this” said Kevin Baker, Positive Health Manager.

NZAF is concerned that many think AIDS has gone away. Matt’s ill health shows that this disease remains life threatening. Without access to the latest effective treatments our fight against the rapidly mutating virus will be lost.

ENDS

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