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New Pharmac Funded Drug to Benefit Maori

02 December 2016

New Pharmac Funded Drug to Benefit Maori

Māori will benefit from Pharmac’s decision to fund a new medicine that combats HIV, an advocate for Māori living with the life-threatening disease says.

Marama Pala, an advocate for Māori living with HIV

Pala, 45, was diagnosed with HIV in 1993 when she was 22, and is the first Māori woman to announce her HIV positive status. She serves on a number of international organisations advocating rights and support for indigenous peoples living with HIV, and is the executive director of INA, (Māori, Indigenous & South Pacific) HIV/AIDS Foundation.

Māori are often diagnosed with HIV in the later stages of infection, making up 40 per cent of ‘late’ diagnoses in New Zealand, Pala said.

“Māori are less likely to access testing regularly. There are high healthcare disparities and ongoing social health determinants that lead to less-vigorous healthcare for Māori,” she says.

Pala says the stigma attached to the disease, discrimination and a lack of education within Māori rural communities were also contributing factors on late detection in Māori.

“In some areas people still believe prostitution is illegal and being gay is still a jailable offence. So many Māori are diagnosed in the later stages of infection.”

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.

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[1].

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 medications mean people diagnosed with HIV now have relatively normal lifespans.

From November 1, Pharmac has funded Tivicay (dolutegravir), a HIV medicine from the integrase inhibitor class that blocks the HIV virus from spreading through the immune system.2

Pala says: “Tivicay will provide another option for people living with HIV in our country. Having more treatments available for New Zealanders is always a bonus” she says


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