Positive Life NSW Blog

Easier access to HIV medications

Posted by on in Advocacy and Policy

IMAGE: Red, blue and white medication of various sizes

In the last year, people with HIV have benefited from significant changes in public health policy.

Very few changes happen without advocacy and representation. When efforts succeed the results can be truly transformative. You may be aware of Positive Life NSW. Positive Life is the state peak advocacy organisation run by people with HIV for people with HIV. It works to improve the lives of people with HIV in NSW and is charged with the responsibility of representing their interests.

A more convenient approach to dispensing was urgently required with increasing numbers of people with HIV now employed and hospital-based pharmacies only open from 9-5pm Monday to Friday. The Community Pharmacy Pilot Project (2001), successfully allowed people to collect HIV medications from targeted metropolitan community pharmacies. Since that time, Positive Life advocated for a community pharmacy dispensing option. Restrictive Commonwealth regulations and a conservative hospital-based pharmacy sector delayed progress however. A change of State Government together with the release of important new research into the health and transmission benefits of HIV treatment provided the needed change impetus.

In late 2011 a working group of community representatives from Positive Life, ACON, the Albion Centre and the NSW Ministry of Health, began brokering a new access model. On World AIDS Day 1 December 2011, Jillian Skinner, NSW Minister for Health announced the introduction of the Enhanced Medication Access Scheme (EMA).

The EMA scheme is run out of the Albion Centre pharmacy and enables people with HIV who are stable on treatment to have their medications mailed to their home or a nominated community pharmacy. People no longer need to take time off work to travel to, and wait at, a hospital pharmacy. EMA has been well received, particularly by those who find it difficult and time consuming to get to a hospital pharmacy and by those who live in regional NSW. 235 people have enrolled in EMA and 57 community pharmacies have signed up to the service.

If you want to save time and make your life easier, talk to your HIV doctor about joining the scheme. Information and relevant forms to download about the EMA Scheme is on the Positive Life NSW website.

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