HIV treatment has changed a lot over the last 30 years. The medication available in Australia are highly effective.
HIV is treated with medications called antiretrovirals (ARVs). They do not get rid of HIV, but they can reduce the level of HIV in the body and stop it from harming your immune system. Once the virus has been reduced to low enough levels, HIV cannot be passed on through sexual contact.
People with HIV on treatment can live a long, happy and healthy life. Treating treatment as soon as possible is better for your health.
Things to know about HIV treatments:
- HIV treatment are effective but lifelong
- You need to follow your treatment as directed. Missing medication can cause problems
- You may get side effects. If you do, tell your doctor. They can put you on a different treatment to stop the side effects
- Take the time to talk with your doctor about your treatment. Taking antiretrovirals is an important decision. You should make sure you have all the information you need
How can I get HIV treatment and how much does it cost?
A doctor who specialises in HIV is the best person to talk to about treatments. If your doctor does not have experience in HIV, make an appointment to see a doctor at a sexual health clinic.
You will be prescribed a medication that is right for you.
You will need to take this prescription to:
- Hospital pharmacy: Many people get their medication from the hospital pharmacy. That way, they can see their specialist and get their medication on the same visit.
- Local pharmacy: You will need to check if they sell your HIV medication. It is important to think ahead, so you don’t run out if they need to order it in. All pharmacists must keep your information private and confidential.
- Online pharmacy: You can buy your HIV medication online and have them delivered. You will need to upload your prescription to do this.
In Western Australia, HIV treatment is provided free to everyone through the public. If you don’t have a Medicare card, you will still be able to receive HIV treatment for free. If you choose to go through a private practitioner, however, there will be costs.
Not all states provide HIV treatment free for people without Medicare cards. If you move to another state, you may need to pay for the medication yourself.
Monitoring your health
It is important to work with your doctor to stay healthy and protect yourself from other infections. Regular check-ups will help your doctor monitor your viral load and check for any changes in your health.
Frequently Asked Questions
Stigma is when someone experiences negative beliefs, feelings and views because of their gender, sexuality, race, colour, health problems or religious beliefs.
When a person is seen as different, they can be judged and discriminated against, and experience stigma. This can cause people living with HIV to become isolated and may stop people from getting tested for HIV, starting treatment and using health and support services.
In Australia, it is against the law for any person or health care worker to discriminate against you. They cannot judge you, criticise you or refuse you service because of your gender, sexuality, race, colour, health problems or religious beliefs
Read more about stigma and HIV.
What are my legal responsibilities around HIV?
It is important to know about HIV and the law. In WA, by law, you don’t need to tell someone that you have HIV before having sex as long as you take reasonable precautions to protect them from getting HIV.
Reasonable precautions to avoid passing on HIV may include:
- Using a condom
- Having an undetectable viral load (from being on HIV treatment)
- Your sexual partner is taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
If you are living with HIV, you should ask your doctor what reasonable precautions you can take to protect your partners from HIV
Find out more on our HIV and the law page.
Will having HIV affect my visa status?
Some people are worried about being tested or treated for HIV because they are afraid it will impact their visa to live in Australia.
It is important to note that your health information is only released to your health care providers and necessary health officials.
Information about your diagnosis must be released to the Western Australian Department of Health, however, this information is kept confidential and only used to support treatment and prevention of HIV.
While Australia commonly does not grant permanent residency to people with HIV, that does not mean you will be removed from Australia as soon as you are diagnosed as HIV positive.
Can I treat myself with other therapies?
Some people with HIV choose to use complementary therapies along with taking HIV medication. These include homeopathy, massage, acupuncture, hypnotherapy, vitamins and traditional medicine.
These therapies cannot cure or treat HIV but may help if you have side effects from your HIV medication.
Make sure you discuss your treatment needs with your specialist and they will able support you.
Roles of healthcare providers and services around HIV
- General practitioners (GP) – GPs are doctors that work in the community instead of hospitals. You can visit a GP at a medical centre or private practice. Some GPs bulk bill if you have a Medicare card (you do not pay), but some GPs charge an extra fee for their service. It is always important to check if there will be a fee to see the GP.
If you have HIV, it’s important to find a GP who understands HIV and has experience treating people who are living with HIV. Not all GPs can prescribe HIV treatment. If your GP can’t prescribe HIV treatment, they can refer you to a GP or specialist doctor who can. Any GP can prescribe PrEP, so if you think PrEP is right for you, speak to your GP.
- Specialists – Specialists are doctors who are trained in a particular health issue. Specialists in HIV medicine will supervise every stage of your treatment and care. You must have a referral letter from your GP to book an appointment with an HIV specialist.
- Hospitals – Hospitals provide specialised treatment for unwell people, including people with HIV. Some HIV specialists are located in hospitals.
- Sexual health clinics – Sexual health clinics are located across WA. These clinics provide medical services, counselling and support in sexual and reproductive health, including HIV. All sexual health clinics in WA have staff who are very experienced in HIV and are free or low cost.
- Counsellors, social workers and psychologists – Many services have counsellors, social workers and psychologists who you can talk to you about your feelings and find solutions to some of the challenges of living with HIV.
A counsellor or social worker can help you find services, provide emotional support, help you decide who to tell that you have HIV, how to tell them, and even be with you when you do tell them
- Interpreters – If you don’t feel comfortable speaking in English, you can have an interpreter present when you are talking with health care workers or other services. The interpreter’s job is to translate everything you and the health care worker say to each other.
By using an interpreter, you can make sure you understand everything you are being told and can ask the questions you need to ask.
Telephone interpreters are also available anywhere in Australia. This service is called Telephone Interpreter Service (TIS). The service is free and does not need to be booked in advance. To use TIS, call 131 450.