Effective antiretroviral treatment (ART) for HIV-positive (HIV+) individuals results in viral suppression leading to long-term disease remission, prolonged survival and the prevention of HIV transmission. Providing ART to infected individuals is a key prevention strategy and a crucial component of the HIV response internationally. Maintaining an undetectable viral load, however, requires regular access to care and treatment, with patients adhering to their treatment regimen. The Australian government provides fully subsidised ART to HIV+ patients eligible for a Medicare card through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
Until they apply for residency, HIV+ temporary residents living in Australia are ineligible for a Medicare card and cannot access subsidised ART. Thus, most HIV+ temporary residents have limited options for accessing treatment and must pay the full cost of ART medications (with first-line regimens costing ~A$10 500 per year), source ART from their country of origin or import generic drugs from overseas suppliers. Such barriers prevent HIV+ temporary residents achieving optimal health outcomes and increase the risk of transmission to their sexual partners.
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