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July 24, 2017 | by  | in News Splash |
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HIV Free by 2025

244 New Zealanders were diagnosed with HIV in 2016, the largest number of new diagnoses since records began in 1985.

In response to these figures the New Zealand AIDS Foundation (NZAF) has announced the Ending HIV campaign, which introduces a three-pronged approach to ending transmissions of HIV by 2025.

The first part of NZAF’s approach is advocating for safe sex. As well as promoting condom use, NZAF encourages the use of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PREP), a preventative pill designed to be taken daily by HIV-negative people to reduce the risk of infection.

Secondly, NZAF are promoting at least twice-annual HIV testing. This is vital for HIV treatment as infection is often spread through people unaware of their HIV-positive status.

Thirdly, NZAF are aiming to have HIV-positive people start treatment as early as possible, in order to greatly decrease the chance of the virus spreading further.

However, lack of funding poses significant challenges to the goal of ending HIV transmission.

The current cost of PREP in new Zealand remains “hugely prohibitive,” according to VUW graduate Joshua James. “The NZAF actually recommend you buy it online and ship it in. Without substantial law or regulation change, this part of their toolkit will be missing.”

In addition, from his experiences when getting tested, James said it was clear that centres are understaffed and under resourced, noting that “appointments can take weeks to get.”

Early in 2017, the Ministry of Health declined funding for overdue research into HIV treatment  strategies.

Peter Saxton, a researcher from the University of Auckland who was preparing to do this research, pointed out to The Nation that “the big developments in HIV prevention and treatment occured in 2015.”

As the last HIV research in New Zealand was undertaken in 2014, there is a lack of data as to how those developments have practically affected HIV prevention here. Saxton said that 2017 was “the worst possible time to stop conducting behavioural research.”

“Without proper funding going towards the NZAF, without Pharmac funding PREP, without a standardised queer-friendly sexual health unit taught in schools, and without the government investing more money into HIV research, the goal won’t be achieved,” said James.

 

The NZAF provides an online service to help you find a nearby clinic that provides free HIV testing: https://www.nzaf.org.nz/getting-tested/book-a-test/

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