HIV prevention drug Truvada to be publicly funded in New Zealand

Pharmac estimates up to 4,000 people with a high risk of contracting HIV will be eligible for a drug to prevent infection with the virus which the Government's drug buying agency will now fund.

From March, Truvada will be funded for the prevention of HIV infection, a treatment known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, which has the potential to almost completely eliminate the risk of HIV infection. 

Truvada is already funded for treating people infected with HIV, and it will now also be funded for people if they are not infected but are at a high risk of contracting HIV.

New Zealand will be one of the first countries in the world to publicly fund PrEP for the prevention of HIV.

"Together with safe sex practise, early diagnosis and access to treatment, we expect that PrEP will significantly reduce HIV transmission rates in New Zealand," said Pharmac chief executive Sarah Fitt.

Truvada was registered for PrEP in August 2017, and Pharmac has worked closely with the New Zealand AIDS Foundation to support them in preparing a funding application for PrEP, which was reviewed by Pharmac's clinical advisers and given a high priority for funding in November 2017, Ms Fitt said.

"Condoms continue to be the primary and recommended method of preventing transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Condoms are fully funded on prescription and are highly effective, but rates of HIV infection are still increasing in New Zealand," she said.

Funded access to PrEP will require that people undergo regular testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, and are monitored for risk of side effects. 

People taking funded PrEP will receive advice on ways to reduce the risk of HIV and sexually transmitted infections.

The New Zealand AIDS Foundation says it applauds Pharmac's decision.

Prior to this "game changing development", PrEP was only available at a cost of around $1,000 for 30 Truvada pills. the foundation said. 

As an economical alternative, many users have been forced to import generic versions of the drug from overseas pharmacies at a personal cost of around $50 per month, it said.

"Providing affordable access to PrEP for those who need it will make an enormous difference to those most at risk of HIV transmission in New Zealand," said Dr Jason Myers, executive director of the New Zealand AIDS Foundation.

"It's a giant leap forward for our ambitious goal of ending new HIV transmissions in New Zealand by 2025," he said.

Executive Director of the NZ Aids Foundation, Dr Jason Myers, says the latest figures are a strong call to action.
Source: 1 NEWS

'Just still emotional' – arson-hit Hamilton waka ama team humbled after reaching world champs on borrowed vessel

A Hamilton waka ama paddling team has defied possible sabotage to qualify for the world championships in Tahiti. 

The Te Toki team lost their treasured waka in an arson attack in early November, and it interrupted a key moment in their preparation for the national sprint champs.

The loss of the Te Toki team's three waka totalled around $45,000, they revealed to TVNZ1's Te Karere.

The Hamilton team lost their treasured waka in a fire, but are now back on course. Source: 1 NEWS

But fortunately the Masters Women team, Puehnui, were able to borrow a waka donated by Te Wananga O Aotearoa to compete at nationals.

"I think it was just the relief of getting a couple of wakas straight away and all the kids were back into it ," senior paddler Lavinia Pene said.

"We are so surprised ... getting us over which sort of blow us all the way.

And despite competing on a borrowed waka, the team placed third in the competition, and are off to the world championships in Tahiti later this year.

But to make this a reality, the team can't continue to rely on inter-waka ama generosity, and need to by a waka themselves.

"We're still doing a lot of fundraising like getting more waka," 

"At the same time trying to get new gears as well. And we sort of push us aside and still try and focus out there."

Hear more about the Te Toki waka ama team's incredible journey on the 6pm 1 NEWS bulletin, and Te Karere at 3.55pm, on TVNZ 1.

Te Toki lost their treasured waka in an arson attack last year, but didn't let that stop them reaching their goal. Source: 1 NEWS


Downed power lines block SH1 north of Wellington after truck hits wires

Downed power lines are blocking some lanes of State Highway 1 south of Otaki, after a large wide load vehicle collected some wires over the motorway this afternoon.

The power lines may be blocking some SH1 passing lanes near Te Horo, 65 kilometres north of Wellington.

A large wide load vehicle and some pilot vehicles are also obstructing the SH1 passing lanes.

Police said in a statement they were on their way to the scene to ensure the area is blocked off while they wait for the services to attend.

Motorists are advised to be wary of traffic backing up and lines across the road near the scene. 

A road closure sign in front of a Police vehicle
A road closure sign in front of a Police vehicle. Source: 1 NEWS