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Health partnerships drive quality of life for people with HIV

Inclusion, respect and equity are the focus for World Aids Day on 1 December, with events planned across Australia to remember those lost, educate and raise support for much-needed services.

Bolton Clarke HIV Clinical Nurse Practitioner Dr Liz Crock will be among experts discussing latest developments in service provision, barriers to treatment and stigma around HIV at a World AIDS Day panel discussion hosted by The Doherty Institute.

Dr Crock said the day would provide opportunity to reflect on advances towards better quality of life for people living with HIV.

“One of the things we have been doing in the Bolton Clarke HIV team is working with a Master of Public Health student to evaluate the implementation of our HIV assessment tool, which includes a measurement of quality of life called PozQol,” she said.

“The results of the evaluation will help us to refine the tool to enhance care planning with clients and to monitor their quality of life.

 “A big part of our role has always been education, not just about infection prevention but dispelling myths and misconceptions about the virus. 

 “One of the really great, major changes we’ve seen over the past few years is that people who are successfully treated for HIV are no longer considered infectious and cannot transmit the virus sexually to anyone. We still have a role to play in ensuring people understand that.” 

 Strong health partnerships had been key in achieving change.

“Our partnership with Thorne Harbour Health and the Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre to provide integrated services is now in its 31st year,” Dr Crock said.

“The strength and longevity of this partnership helps ensure our HIV clients receive the best possible care and access to each organisation’s services.

“For example, we have a Fines Victoria Work and Development permit administered by Thorne Harbour Health that allows clients to work off fine debt by engaging in HIV care and support by the team. 

“Bolton Clarke clients also have easy access to Thorne Harbour Health services such as pantry supplies, social and volunteer support, NDIS support, art classes, family violence and alcohol and other drug services and lots more. 

“In turn, Thorne Harbour Health clients have smooth access to Bolton Clarke’s HIV and Homeless Persons Program care and consultation when needed. 

"Home care makes a huge difference because people can have their own community and friends around them.”

“Being welcomed into clients’ homes and into their lives, it’s always felt like such an amazing privilege.” 

Dr Crock said another highlight for the year was the extension of subsidised medication for people who are ineligible for Medicare.

“Our nurses have advocated for this for many years, to ensure people can stay well and receive treatment while they are waiting for the outcome of immigration applications,” she said.

In 2021, an estimated 29,460 people were living with HIV in Australia.  

Australia reached the important UNAIDS target of 90-90-90 in 2020. We are one of the few countries to do so. This means that in 2020: 

·         91% of people living with HIV had received a diagnosis.

·         Of those diagnosed, 91% were receiving antiretroviral treatment.

·         Of those receiving this treatment, 97% had a suppressed viral load.