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HIV treatment in Malta archaic, activist warns

Medication comes at a hefty price of €600

An HIV awareness activist says the treatment offered in Malta is outdated.

An HIV awareness activist says the treatment offered in Malta is outdated.

Treatment for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in Malta is “archaic” because doctors were prescribing “outdated” drug regiments, HIV awareness activist Mark Josef Rapa has warned.

Mr Rapa, who manages a website informing people about HIV prevention, warned that people living with the virus in Malta were accessing treatment and regiments that were outdated.

“There are people who have to take six tablets a day, when in most countries, a daily pill is enough to control the virus,” Mr Rapa said.

He also hit out at a recent proposal within the LGBTIQ equality strategy and action plan which recommended that HIV medication should be free.

The action plan calls for both PEP and PrEP drugs to be provided free-of-charge.

PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) medication is administered in emergency situations after a recent possible exposure to HIV. Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, is taken daily by people who are at risk of contracting HIV, to reduce the odds of them doing so. 

Read: Malta has third highest rate of new HIV cases in Europe

While Mr Rapa agreed that the medication should become part of the national healthcare system, he insisted including the proposal in an LGBTIQ action plan was a “missed opportunity”.

“Framing PrEP within an LGBT action plan automatically excludes others who do not identify as such,” he pointed out.

“PrEP should, as is rightly so happening in other countries, be also advertised for heterosexual men and women who engage in sexual behaviour which puts them at risk of acquiring HIV. We are here missing a sterling opportunity to reach out to the rest of the population who may need and be eligible to use PrEP,” Mr Rapa insisted.
One wonders why the unnecessary delay

PEP medication comes at a hefty price of €600. The price tag can often deter people exposed to a risk of HIV from buying the medication.

“One wonders why the unnecessary delay?” Mr Rapa asked.

“Is it the lack of human resources, the lack of funds, hesitation from public health authorities or the plan to use the introduction of PrEP to get the pink vote in the next general election?”

Mr Rapa’s comments came following Allied Rainbow Communities’ manager Clayton Mercieca’s insistence that both PrEP and PEP medication should be free of charge.

“PEP is very costly and you need to take it within 72 hours,” Mr Mercieca said.

“It is €600 and it is not like you can pay it in instalments; you have to pay it there and then, otherwise they won’t make it available to you at the hospital.”

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