Tuesday, July 16, 2024

10-year plan to beat HIV

The Government has released its plan to eliminate the transmission of HIV in New Zealand by 2032.

Associate Health Minister, Ayesha Verrall says the plan will also ensure that people living with HIV have healthy lives, free from stigma and discrimination, for consultation.

“We have made excellent progress in reducing the transmission of HIV in New Zealand with the number diagnosed in 2021 the lowest since the 1990s,” said Dr Verrall.

The HIV Action plan proposes actions to expand access to testing – greater access to sexual health, greater responsiveness for HIV in primary care, and more at home testing options.

“Elimination will take a concerted effort, but we know from the COVID-19 experience we can achieve ambitious elimination goals with nationally consistent and decisive strategies,” the Minister said.

New Zealand had the world’s first national publicly-funded needle and syringe programme to assist with the prevention of HIV, and now also has one of the lowest rates in the world of HIV among people who inject drugs.

“Now we are setting out to be the first country to eliminate transmission,” said Dr Verrall.

“HIV prevention (including PrEP and condoms) and HIV treatment is free in New Zealand to anyone who is eligible for publicly funded healthcare. This is definitely part of the success factor to date in reducing transmission.

“We have also recently widened the eligibility criteria to allow even more people to access PrEP. All of this is an example of the practical and holistic approach we as a Government are taking towards ending local HIV transmission.”

She said the decline in the number of people diagnosed with HIV, coupled with already having eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV, placed New Zealand in a strong position to eliminate HIV transmission.

The HIV Action plan will receive $18 million over four years from Budget 2022. The funding is additional to the existing spending on HIV prevention and surveillance, as well as the specialist secondary workforce.

 The draft HIV Action Plan provides a 10-year roadmap with five high-level goals:

  • reduce the number of new locally acquired HIV infections
  • improve Māori health and wellbeing in relation to HIV through delivering on our Te Tiriti o Waitangi obligations
  • decrease mortality and the negative consequences of HIV on health and wellbeing
  • decrease experiences of stigma and discrimination for people living with HIV
  • increase equity in relation to all HIV goals and objectives.

The actions to achieve these goals include improving:

  • surveillance, information, and knowledge systems
  • combination prevention and health promotion
  • testing and linkage to care; and
  • support for people living with HIV, including addressing stigma and discrimination.

The Minister said public consultation will be undertaken in August with a range of options for communities to engage.

“The consultation is crucial as we know the importance and value of including people living with or affected by HIV when planning and delivering any HIV response. We want to understand if there are any changes needed to the draft HIV Action Plan and understand priority actions for funding over the next four years,” said Dr Verrall.

“Looking forward I want people living with HIV in Aotearoa New Zealand to feel supported, cared for and confident in the tools available to prevent transmission.

“When we hear from people living with HIV that they do not experience discrimination, we can be confident in our success, and when we have eliminated the local transmission of HIV we will be proud,” she said.

Since national HIV surveillance was established in Aotearoa New Zealand in 1985, there have been 5,430 notifications of HIV and 757 AIDS-related deaths. There are currently 2,839 people receiving subsidised antiretroviral treatment for HIV.

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