HIV healthcare in the bush


Positive Life NSW on the issues facing people living with HIV in rural communities. Photo: Supplied.

Everyone deserves equal access to healthcare. It’s no different for those of us living with HIV, wherever we’re living. When we get the right healthcare, we can significantly improve the quality of our lives. We can also take steps to prevent future ill-health.

It’s no secret that everyone doesn’t receive the same level of healthcare across NSW. There are many barriers to accessing quality healthcare in rural areas. People living with HIV in rural areas face a variety of barriers to accessing their HIV healthcare.

Fewer health services are available in these communities and travel and financial barriers, along with reduced access to medical technology make it more challenging to access quality healthcare.

Many of us who live with HIV in rural areas travel long distances to access our HIV specialist. Only medical professionals with s100 accreditation can prescribe HIV medication, and they’re usually not close by.

While there’s an online searchable list of s100 prescribers on the ASHM website, and the Isolated Patients Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme (IPTAAS) might be helpful to eligible patients, travelling long distances can be costly and public transport is not always reliable and useful.

It’s becoming more and more expensive to visit a GP. While bulk billing can lessen the cost, it’s becoming challenging to find a GP that bulk bills in rural areas.

When Sarah first arrived in a new rural community, it took months to find a medical practice that was taking on new patients, let alone a bulk billed practice. She’d prefer a woman s100 prescriber, and her only choices are male doctors, so she’s still feeling uncomfortable with her HIV specialist.

Privacy concerns can become an overwhelming reason why people living with HIV in rural areas avoid healthcare. In small towns everybody knows everybody. People living with HIV who prefer to keep their status private, often feel very uncomfortable accessing healthcare and or medication locally.

With some planning it’s possible to make the most of the services that are available. Technology has made healthcare more accessible anywhere where you can access a phone or computer.

Telehealth means you can get a phone or video appointment with your medical professionals. It means you can get timely healthcare and save on travelling costs. It may not always be able to replace face to face consultations but can be useful. Technology also means people living with HIV can be part of supportive online community groups to stay in touch with others.

If you’re struggling with health barriers, get in touch with Positive Life NSW on (02) 8357 8386 or contact@positivelife.org.au We understand what it’s like to live with HIV and can help track down the services that work for you in NSW.

Positive Life NSW is the representative body for all people living with HIV in NSW. To find out more go to www.positivelife.org.au

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