MGRM warns of ‘unaffordable’ HIV treatment as it launches nationwide awareness campaign

The Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement said that treatment which could dramatically reduce the risk of persons acquiring HIV remain 'unaffordable' to the majority of society 

Lifesaving medicines that could reduce the risk of acquiring HIV still remain unaffordable to “most members of society”, The Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement said in a statement on Sunday.

The NGO said that a single-tablet treatment regiment is still not available in Malta, criticising the government for using outdated drugs that have long since “been struck off from international medical guidelines.”

“Like other stakeholders, MGRM remains in the dark concerning a Request for Proposals (RFP) for improved treatment launched in February 2019, and although imminent news is expected about new treatment, to date, there has been no consultation with us stakeholders,” the NGO said.

MGRM said that it remains unclear whether additional services listed to RFP would eventually lead to “partial or total privatisation of HIV-related care” which the group said is “very much a public matter.”

“Given the significant global improvement in the understanding of the virus and new antiretrovirals (ARVs) with fewer side effects, individuals living with HIV can now expect to live a normal healthy life… This can only be achieved through rapid and unobstructed access to modern medicine and treatment, with the best results seen in those countries where treatment has been reduced from 5-6 a day to a single tablet a day.”

The NGO also highlighted that Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis a pill which reduced the risk of acquiring HIV by over 99% remained unaffordable for most members of society. “Although this is a marked improvement over the previous situation where PrEP was not available locally, we cannot help but comment on the fact that the same generic treatment sold in Malta at a price of €57, is available for purchase online, and in several other European countries, at around half the price,” they said.

MGRM said that more “shockingly” Post-Exposure Prophylaxis an emergency treatment administered after possible exposure to HIV, which is provided solely by Mater Dei Hospital costs €600, despite the “continuous and repeated appeals to make it free.”

“Individuals who are unable to afford paying this unreasonable price are turned away. This irresponsible approach to preventative treatment comes at the expense of avoidable HIV diagnoses, and the financial cost of a lifetime of care and treatment.”

The NGO said that it will be announcing several upcoming projects, which will include a new messaging campaign on dating apps and other specific projects within different sectors of the community.

Recently the MGRM launched, with the objective to “destigmatise HIV” through conversation on the subject by making the information as easily accessible as possible, as well as to promote the importance of mental wellbeing, and to ensure that there is an ongoing commitment to making newly developed HIV medication readily available.  

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