Life-saving HIV options
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.