The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has supported research exploring issues relating to HIV treatment uptake in Australia. This research relates to goals outlined in the Seventh National HIV Strategy released in July 2014.
Strategy objectives include: increasing the number of people living with HIV taking up treatment, increasing the rate of undetectable viral load among PLHIV taking treatment, and increasing the number of people testing for HIV.
Research conducted by the Centre for Social Research in Health (CSRH) suggests that “with the increasing momentum to maximise the benefits of antiretroviral therapy (ART), better understanding of opportunities and challenges in increasing ART coverage and promoting early ART initiation is urgently needed”.
In an article published in HIV Medicine in August 2014, the findings linked ART non-use among young gay men living with HIV in Australia to a number of factors divided into: individual factors (younger age, and recent HIV diagnosis); clinical factors (not attending regular STI testing); and structural factors (lack of social welfare support). The article concluded that clinical care and sustained support are important to help young gay men living with HIV management and early uptake of treatment.
Another study conducted by the Kirby Institute emphasised the importance of up-scaling HIV testing and increasing ART coverage in order to make a substantial impact on the Australian HIV epidemic.
In a further related study, doctors specialising in HIV were surveyed about their perspectives on ART initiation in the era of “treatment as prevention”. The study found that Australian prescribers prioritise the improvement of individual patients' health in their consideration of ART initiation.
As well, the study confirms findings from an earlier clinical audit that HIV prescribers in Australia are highly compliant with the ART treatment guidelines and that the overall estimation of ART coverage among their patients resembles the population estimates for clinical samples.