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Systemic advocacy projects
Improved access to dispensing of HIV medication
Taking HIV treatment as directed is the most important factor in the success of anti-HIV treatment. Easy access to pharmacy dispensing services is crucial to maintaining treatment success. At present, HIV medications are only available in NSW through hospital pharmacies and specific services like the Albion Street Centre Pharmacy. These services generally operate Monday to Friday during business hours and require prior planning, employer flexibility, time away from work and in some cases, long travel times during work hours, to pick up medications.
Positive Life NSW will work with hospital and other pharmacy services and NSW Health to improve access for people with HIV.
Read our article in Talkabout Dec 2008: What will HIV look like in the future?
Positive Life NSW and the National Association of People living with HIV/AIDS (NAPWA) have responded to a review of the Highly Specialised Drug Program, the national program that regulates S100/HIV medications in Australia.
We believe that better options can be implemented that support the dispensing of HIV medications by community pharmacies (chemists).
Positive Life NSW strongly supports the introduction of a more flexible HIV medication dispensing model aimed at providing people with HIV with a range of access options that reflect current lifestyles.
The model should include broader access to dispensing points – including community pharmacies where appropriate, and three monthly dispensing where treatment stability makes this appropriate.
Positive Life NSW submission: Read Positive Life NSW S100 submission
NAPWA submission: Read NAPWA S100 Review submission Sept 2009
Relationship recognition and the impacts for people with HIV on pensions
The financial impacts of the federal relationship recognition legislation, in particular, how a working partner’s income will affect the income and health concession eligibility of the partner on an age or Disability Support Pension, will be important issues for many people with HIV. We are advocating to ensure that people affected by the legislative changes are properly informed, able to effectively plan to ease any negative financial impact and that measures to limit hardship are put in place.
Read our article in Talkabout Oct 2008 about the changes: Swings and Roundabouts
National Advocacy: Positive Life NSW is an active member of the newly formed GLBT National Health Alliance. The Alliance has been lobbying the Federal Government to put in place savings provisions for people who will be negatively affected by the changes. You can read more about our joint lobbying and advocacy work at: http://www.acon.org.au/advocacy/news/centrelink-changes
Your relationship: Unsure if your relationship will be recognized by Centrelink after 1 July 2009 and if you need to let them know? Read the latest Welfare Rights fact sheet for more info about how the changes may affect you and your partner: Marriage-like relationships, de facto relationships and Centrelink: http://www.welfarerights.org.au/Factsheets/fsmlr.doc
Oral health and access to Dental Services
Whether using publicly funded dental clinics or private dentists, access to good and affordable dental care is vital to the health and wellbeing of people with HIV. The EPC Medicare Dental Scheme, introduced in November 2007, was a welcome treatment initiative and provided improved access and treatment options. The Federal Labour Government has announced it will replace this scheme with a Commonwealth Dental Health Program. We will be working with NSW Health, Sydney Dental Hospital, St.Vincent’s Dental Department and relevant Area Health Services, to advocate for improved and speedier access to preventive and restorative dental treatment for people with HIV in both metropolitan and regional NSW.
Read our article in Talkabout Feb 2008: Something to smile about (describes access to public, private and Medicare rebated dental services)
Read our article in Talkabout Aug 2008: Dry mouth and HIV
Read an update on the EPC Medicare Dental Program in Talkabout Feb 2009
HIV and the media
The availability of people with HIV who are willing to provide a personal perspective about living with HIV in public forums and through mainstream media is currently limited. We will recruit, train and support people with HIV to develop their media skills and to provide a diverse range of personal perspectives about the issues that impact on our health and wellbeing.
We will also resource the media with up to date information about HIV issues in Australia, including: epidemiology, the background to stigma, sensitivities of disclosure, discrimination, emerging issues in prevention, the impact of long-term HIV treatments and the issues facing people living long-term with HIV.
Read personal stories of people living with HIV from our magazine Talkabout.
Insurance, discrimination and HIV
Access to insurance for people with HIV varies. Attitudes to HIV as a pre-existing condition, and the long-term prognosis impact on how insurance providers view the risk of insuring people with HIV. This impacts across the spectrum of insurance products including; travel, health and life insurance in particular. People with HIV - after less favourable treatment, or from fear of less favourable treatment – may decide not to take out insurance or not to disclose. This may affect their ability to plan for a secure financial future and contribute to financial hardship in their later life.
We will collect and publish information on available insurance cover in Australia and assist people with HIV to have a better understanding of their rights and obligations when applying for insurance. We will also work with the Australian insurance industry to bring them up to date with the improving prognosis and life expectancy for people with HIV.
Employment and HIV
Employment continues to present challenges for people with HIV. Dealing with side effects, intermittent illness and time away from work for doctor’s appointments and pharmacy visits, requires flexibility on the part of employers. The management of disclosure, the impact of breaches of privacy, and potential discrimination within the workplace, can make getting and keeping a job more difficult.
We will assist people with HIV to continue to develop skills around returning to full-time or part-time work, study or volunteering. We will also assist working people with HIV to understand their employment rights and responsibilities, manage career change, financial planning, disclosure and privacy issues, and to advocate for the flexibility to maintain health and life balance while also working. We will also use this work to consider ways to work with employers and unions regarding these issues.
Read an article in Talkabout Feb 2009: Employment, the Job Capacity Assessment, and Centrelink
Access to Mainstream services
A key role for this project is to identify and act on barriers to services for people with HIV. As HIV treatments and experience changes, and as people with HIV age, we will need to engage more with mainstream health and community care and support services.
In doing this, organisations like Positive Life need to be able to raise awareness about the needs of people with HIV and be ready to provide training and awareness to support services providers and ensure access for people with HIV. We will continue to work with health services to ensure that wherever we need to access health services, the care is high quality, clinicians understand any specific HIV interactions and needs, and that privacy and disclosure (and their impacts) are understood and respected.
Read our submission: Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on the Health Care Complaints Act Dec 2008
Read our submission: Electronic submission to Health Prevention Task Force 24 Dec 2008
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Positive Life gave evidence to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties in response to the proposed ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
We support the Convention and the ratification by Australia. We however question the health requirement related to immigration and called for a more balanced consideration of both the costs and benefits to Australia of immigrants and their families with HIV.
We highlighted the continuing exemption given to insurance providers in the Disability Discrimination Act and highlighted the lack of consideration given to people with HIV by the insurance industry and the need for a more constructive, inclusive and balanced approach.
Finally, we supported an increased priority for accountability under the Disability Discrimination Act and called for independent public annual reporting on outcomes as well as mechanisms to plan and improve access to human services for people with disabilities including HIV.
The Rudd Pension Review
On 15th May, the Federal Minister Jenny Macklin announced a review into the Age pension, Carer payment and Disability Support Pension, to strengthen the financial security of seniors, carers and people with disability including people with HIV.
Recent rises in the cost of living pressures have led to concerns that people on low incomes – particularly those who are dependent on pensions and have few assets – may be finding it harder to make ends meet.
The Pension Review will investigate the appropriate levels of income support and allowances for recipients of the Age Pension, DSP and Care Payment and ensure that any changes are sustainable in the long term.
Positive Life will work with the National Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS (NAPWA), the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO), to prepare a submission to the Federal Government highlighting additional health costs faced by people with HIV, the inability to raise funds in an emergency and the spiralling costs associated with rent, food, petrol and utilities in metropolitan Sydney and regional NSW.
We have also attended a public consultation in Sydney where the chair, Dr Jeffrey Harmer, made specific mention of the issues raised by Positive Life in relation to the costs associated with maintaining health and wellbeing for people living with HIV.
For more on the pension review read our Talkabout article: A fair and flexible safety net, Oct 2008
For more information on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, view our submission
Read our article in Talkabout Aug 2008: US ban on HIV positive travelers to be lifted - but not yet!
Read our article in Talkabout Dec 2008: Update from the US Consulate on entry to the US for people with HIV
Visit the Global Database on HIV related travel restrictions. This database lists (country-by-country) how each government restricts the entry, residence and stay of foreigners who have HIV.
Positive Life NSW values your feedback. If you require further information or would like to discuss our systemic advocacy work, please contact:
Senior Project Officer
Positive Life NSW
Phone: (02) 9206 2177