Life-sav­ing HIV options

Mercury (Hobart) - - NEWS - JAMES KITTO

TWENTY-SIX years ago doc­tors told Robert Mitchell he would prob­a­bly die be­fore he was 30.

It was 1993 when the now 51-year-old, from Neika in the state’s South, found out he had con­tracted hu­man im­mun­od­e­fi­ciency in­fec­tion type 1 [HIV1].

“When I was first di­ag­nosed I was told my life ex­pectancy was very lim­ited and prob­a­bly wouldn’t ex­tend beyond five years,” he said.

“It was a very trau­matic time. I was still com­ing to terms with my sex­u­al­ity, and so to be told you might not live past 30 was greatly fright­en­ing.”

Mr Mitchell is one of an es­ti­mated 27,540 Aus­tralians liv­ing with HIV.

He said that over the 26 years he has been man­ag­ing HIV, ad­vance­ments in medicine had seen him go from tak­ing 48 pills a day to now just two or three.

“I’ve been on treat­ment con­tin­u­ously that’s seen me go from a mor­bid di­ag­no­sis to one where it is man­age­able long term,’’ he said. “I have to mon­i­tor my health rig­or­ously, but it’s given me a nearnor­mal life ex­pectancy.”

Fed­eral Health Min­is­ter Greg Hunt has an­nounced Do­vato, a new fixed-dose com­bi­na­tion, will now be re­im­bursed on the Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal Ben­e­fits Scheme in a change that of­fi­cially be­gan yes­ter­day on World AIDS Day.

Do­vato con­tains two ac­tive in­gre­di­ents that are used to treat HIV in­fec­tion — do­lute­gravir and lamivu­dine — in a sin­gle tablet form.

With the PBS sub­sidy, people liv­ing with HIV will pay just $40.30 per script, or $6.50 with a con­ces­sion card for the drug.

Mr Mitchell, who is the spokesman for the Na­tional Associatio­n for People with HIV Aus­tralia, said the PBS roll­out of Do­vato was part of a “con­tin­u­ing jour­ney” of having more options avail­able for people liv­ing with the con­di­tion.

“In Aus­tralia, it’s not about just surviving any more, it’s about thriv­ing,’’ he said.

“In­no­va­tion in treat­ments re­spond­ing to the contempora­ry chal­lenges of people liv­ing with HIV is al­ways im­por­tant to our com­mu­nity.”

Univer­sity of Ade­laide Med­i­cal School chair Mark Boyd said the PBS an­nounce­ment was based on ev­i­dence from two large clin­i­cal tri­als, which showed HIV could be ef­fec­tively con­trolled and sus­tained with two drugs in­stead of three or more.

He said people di­ag­nosed with HIV had a new op­tion.

“This is the first gen­er­a­tion of people di­ag­nosed with HIV that will have ac­cess to a two-drug reg­i­men, rep­re­sent­ing a par­a­digm shift in how HIV is man­aged in Aus­tralia,” Mr Boyd said.

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