Jason Myers, PhD, CEO of the New Zealand AIDS Foundation, delves into how services related to HIV and AIDS in New Zealand—treatment and prevention, and now holistic services—have been spurred to expansion in recent years.
In the HIV/AIDS space, it is important to address not only sexual health but also physical and mental health—to take a more holistic approach to the overall well-being of the communities served, explained Jason Myers, PhD, CEO of the New Zealand AIDS Foundation (NZAF).
How are HIV- and AIDS-related services covered in New Zealand?
We are very fortunate to have a very sophisticated public health system. So, all HIV treatments are fully funded, pre-exposure prophylaxis [PrEP] is fully funded, postexposure prophylaxis is fully funded. No insurance required. So that certainly is a barrier removed that we know exists in other jurisdictions.
In New Zealand, PrEP was funded from 1 March 2019 for those at highest risk of HIV. So for a gay man, for example, who presents and meets the criteria, they can access PrEP fully funded on the New Zealand government. The only cost involved would be $5 to fill the script at the pharmacy for a 3-month supply.
How has signing a new trust deed helped NZAF expand its services?
Essentially, our trust deed is our founding document, and that can be updated over time by our Trust Board, who is essentially our governing body. And essentially what the document does is set out the legal roles and parameters within which the organization can operate. In recent years, as I've just alluded to, the HIV landscape has changed significantly. And so the organization has had to ask questions about whether the deed was fit for purpose and what it might look like for us to meet current challenges and indeed position ourselves for the future of HIV. There were a couple of significant changes made in terms of the purposes of the deed, essentially the “what we can actually do” in terms of delivering programs and services.
First was the integration of both testing and services around STI [sexually transmitted infection] testing and prevention. And so here we're recognizing that particularly in the era of treatment-based HIV prevention, we have a new set of challenges to meet around, and so the board wanted to send a really clear signal this is a space that we want to work on. The other is to expand our ability to work beyond just sexual health into thinking also about the physical and mental health of the communities that we serve. So this is really just about taking a more holistic approach and holistic understanding toward the many things that can contribute to someone's overall well-being and that sexual health is just one of those. As an organization, we wanted to commit to expanding our remit into those different areas as resources that are moving forward.