PERHAPS the major difference between Australia and the UK is that patients have to pay for their HIV medication. Roughly, if you are unwaged and on Medicare you pay $5.40 (£3.40) per item and if you are in full time employment you have to pay up to $33.30 (about £21) per item. Medicare is Australia’s universal health care system… it is intended to provide affordable medical treatment… but as you can see it’s not exactly free. Another difference seems to be that GPs play a greater role in the treatment of people living with HIV.
So far as support is concerned, people in Sydney appear to be very well served. ACON (AIDS Council of New South Wales) is NSW’s and Australia’s largest community-based gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) health and HIV and AIDS organisation. They aim to promote the health and wellbeing of the GLBT community and people affected by HIV, and reduce HIV transmission, and also serve as an ‘umbrella organisation’ for other HIV and GLBT organisations.
Amongst the HIV support organisation ACON supports, the Positive Living Centre (PLC) in Surrey Hills and Positive Life NSW were the two that attracted me most. The PLC is a haven for people living with HIV with its comfortable lounge, free Internet access, consultation rooms and a large kitchen and dining room at the rear of the premises. Although it is open each week day, the most popular days are Tuesdays when breakfast is served and Fridays for lunch. Having shown proof of my HIV diagnosis and signed up as a visiting member at the start of my trip I was able to meet people and share lunch with them on the last week of my stay.
It was over a nutritious and substantial meal that I found out about Medicare and prescription charges. Finance seems to be as big a problem for people living with HIV in Australia as it does in the UK. I discovered there is a positive women’s group, but unlike most HIV centres in Britain, the majority of people living with HIV I saw in Sydney were white gay men and this seems to be the case across the rest of Australia. Generally, the people I spoke to were satisfied with the HIV services provided in NSW, but from what I heard, the situation they enjoy is not common in every state in the country.
ACON also refers individuals to other services like the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation (BGF) which is Australia’s oldest HIV support organisation founded a year before ACON in 1984. They offer social and financial support to people living with HIV in NSW. Unfortunately there wasn’t time to meet up with anyone from BGF nor with Positive Life NSW who produce first-class HIV publications and run a Positive Speakers Programme. Nevertheless, I hope to establish contact with both of them in preparation for a return visit in the not too distant future.
To be continued….
Australian: The nunbers
16,700 people living with HIV in the Australia
300 young people under 18 infected in the Australia
5,000 children live in a family affected by HIV
75 people die every year from illnesses related to their HIV infection
1,000 people are diagnosed with HIV every year in year Australia
2008: the highest number of new diagnoses in the Australia was recorded
AIDS Trust of Australia website – www.aidstrust.com.au