Gay rights groups propose new treatment and easier access to HIV medication

The Malta Gay Rights Movement and Allied Rainbow Communities advocated for a new HIV treatment protocol and access to medication through national health service in their call for better measures to address ‘rise in HIV infections’

The replacement of the current anti-retroviral treatment protocol and the provision of HIV medication through the national health service were just two of the measure the Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM) and Allied Rainbow Communities (ARC) advocated for in the call for better measures to address the supposed rise in HIV infections.

In a joint statement marking World Aids Day, the two groups expressed their concern at the lack of adequate measures HIV. They claimed that HIV infections have been increasing by 20% each year since 2009, and 44 new cases of HIV as well as two cases of AIDS were notified by the end of August 2016.

They warned of a possible rise in those requiring treatment for the virus if measures are not undertaken. “Unless concrete and effective measures to interrupt this trend are introduced the number of those living with HIV will potentially increase to 2,000 people requiring treatment within the next five years, at significant cost to Malta’s healthcare system.”

ARC and MGRM said they were advocating for the replacement the current “out-dated” anti-retroviral treatment protocol with one “that is more effective, having less side-effects and more likely to ensure adherence and the attainment of undetectable viral loads, thus eliminating the risk of HIV transmission.” They also called for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to be provided by the national health service, “given their proven effectiveness in reducing infection/transmission rates.”

PrEP is when people at very high risk for HIV take HIV medicines daily to lower their chances of getting infected, while PEP refers to taking anti-retroviral medicines after being potentially exposed to HIV to prevent becoming infected.

Other measures the two groups advocated for also included making rapid testing and self-administered home testing widely available, in order to achieve the target set by the UNAIDS 2016–2021 strategy of 90% of HIV+ persons being aware their status, as well as conducting targeted awareness campaigns aimed at increasing the rate of those coming forward for testing, and ensuring that infected persons are able to access treatment as early as possible.

Additionally, the groups said that newly diagnosed persons should have access to psychological services on request.

“This is not only the path that is most respectful of the human rights of HIV+ persons and the one leading to better health outcomes. It is also the one that is most cost effective in the long term and offers the best hope for current children to grow up as an AIDS free generation,” they said.