Positive Life NSW undertook a survey of the Australian community both HIV positive and negative people, with a specific focus on NSW as these are the constituents represented by the organisation. The aim was to explore the community’s attitudes and views to the recommendations of antiretroviral treatment at time of diagnosis (immediate start).
A consistent and common agreement that has emerged is that the person at the time of diagnosis needs to be ready to commence antiretroviral treatment at time of diagnosis and not feel pressured or coerced. It is also clear that while viral suppression could be gleaned as a public health pressure to commence people on antiretroviral treatment at time of diagnosis, there is also recognition by the community that there are benefits for the individual both physiological and psychological.
The caveats for a person for antiretroviral treatment at time of diagnosis are access to the right information that need to be delivered with confidence and constancy by healthcare providers, that the right medication be prescribed and be accessible at point of diagnosis and that psychological supports be readily available including access to peer support. A focus on information around the quality and safety of the current antiretroviral treatment medications that are currently being prescribed, assurances by the practitioner that once viral suppression has been achieved with the statement that they will be at ‘zero’ risk to their sexual partners must be a mainstay of the information being given at the time of the diagnosis. Referral to peer support will achieve assurances that the possibility of a life they chose to lead is possible and achievable. It is quite clear from the qualitative responses that if a person asks for antiretroviral treatment at time of diagnosis, this should be prescribed and that this decision needs to be a fully informed, be an individual choice and not denied unless contraindicated.
Community Report:Immediate start to treatment