Taking the fight to HIV in Bundy
A ROADSHOW event showcasing new approaches to HIV treatment and its prevention came to Bundaberg yesterday.
The HIV Foundation Queensland (HIVFQ) Treatment as Prevention Roadshow was directed at health professionals throughout regional Queensland to inform them of the developments taking place in adopting the latest approach to curtailing the spread of the virus, called Treatment as Prevention, or TasP.
Bringing international experts from British Columbia, who oversaw a dramatic turnaround in transmissions in local communities to Queensland, the TasP Roadshow targets a wide range of health professionals, including non-HIV specialists, to ensure they are aware of progress that is being made around the world, in Australia and Queensland.
"The new global best-practice approach, called TasP (treatment as prevention), works two ways,” Dr Barrios of the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS said.
"Treatment for people living with HIV leads to the amount of virus in their blood becoming so small it is undetectable.
"When someone has an undetectable viral load, new evidence from a larger scale study shows there were no transmissions of HIV.
"But the really ground-breaking thing about TAsP is that HIV negative people at risk can also take HIV treatment (one tablet a day) and this prevents them from being infected - this is called PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis),” he said.
Working together, these two functions of TasP have seen dramatic reductions in the spread of the virus in British Columbia and San Francisco by at least 30%.
The HIV Foundation Queensland is keen to see these results replicated in Australia and in their home state.
HIVFQ chairman Dr Darren Russell said that to end new transmissions of HIV, there must be a multi-faceted approach with support from the medical fraternity and wider community.
"Through our TasP Roadshow we hope to see health care providers asking themselves, 'Do I know the HIV status of my patients?' and 'How can I best support my patients who require life-long HIV treatment?',” Dr Russell said.
"With the old class of drugs, the accepted approach was to wait as long as possible before prescribing treatment as the drugs available at the time were highly toxic and in some cases caused horrible side effects, often worsening the condition of patients. It was actually policy that a person's CD4 count, a key measure of immune system health, had to drop to below 400 before clinicians were permitted to prescribe treatment, but this is no longer the case.”