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Demand for access to HIV treatments in NZ, Pacific

Demand for access to HIV treatments in NZ and Pacific

Today’s opening plenary of the Pan Pacific Regional HIV/AIDS conference in Auckland has called for greater access to HIV medications.

PhD candidate Michael Stevens said that while many Pacific countries were fighting for access to any anti-retroviral treatments, New Zealand, compared with other developed countries, was also dragging its heals in the provision of medicines.

“Access to effective pharmaceuticals in a timely manner is not just a ploy of pharmaceutical companies to increase profits. It is a matter of life and death for many of us. It is our right. We need to fight for it … with no shame,” he said.

Each time new medicines were developed, New Zealand could not expect to see them for another two to five years, Mr Stevens said. The delay was due to Pharmac’s approval process and people have died waiting.

“For those of us with limited treatment options left, waiting for Pharmac to go through this process every time is a nightmare. This is not acceptable”

The Pacific Island’s AIDS Foundation’s Irene Malachi gave powerful voice to the Pacific Islands’ demand for any access as an HIV positive person in the Pacific.

Mrs Malachi had to travel from Vanuatu to Noumea and personally pay the equivalent of NZ$1,036 per month for her treatment. She spoke about the hardship and stigma she had faced when her government broke confidence and revealed that she was HIV positive, and the further suffering caused by lack of medication.

“Everyone with HIV should get these drugs.”

She also called for access to counselling, which barely existed, and confidential HIV testing.

“Please remember that people with AIDS are fellow human beings. HIV has no boundaries so we need to work together to win this fight against HIV/AIDS.”

Head of the University of Melbourne’s HIV Vaccine Research Laboratory quashed any hopes that a vaccine would be available in the near future.

“There is no vaccine and there won’t be for a long time,” he said.

He reiterated that the best cure was prevention through condoms and lubricant, sterile needles, and preventing mother to baby transmission.

A recent vaccine trial had failed, and although two more were to occur, the results would not be available until 2007. Even if the trials were successful, they would not be available to people for many years, he said.


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