The meeting covered the main barriers to accessing HIV medications and the role of UK civil society in improving this global situation. In addition to discussing anti-retroviral therapy (ART), delegates heard a presentation highlighting issues of access to opioids, essential to the provision of palliative care to people living with HIV.
Ms Claire Morris, global advocacy director, Worldwide Palliative Care Alliance (WPCA), spoke about the implications of access to opioids for the global HIV response.
Ms Morris presented with Catherine Cook of Harm Reduction International (HRI). Other speakers included the co-directors of AIDS-Free World, Stephen Lewis and Paula Donovan, as well as representatives of organizations such as Médecins Sans Frontières, RESULTS UK, Tearfund.
Juan E. Méndez, Special Rapporteur to the WHO on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, in his February 2013 report, noted these barriers to access and called on governments to fulfil their legal obligations to ensure that their citizens have access to adequate pain control.
Every year approximately one million people living with HIV and AIDS at the end stage live and die without treatment for moderate to severe pain. This is due to:
- legislation or strict regulations preventing access
- lack of training of health professionals in palliative care
- no national policies on palliative care and pain management
- limited funding and/or government support
- opiophobia (UN Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez, 1 February 2013, A/HRC/22/53).
People living with HIV can benefit from palliative care from the moment of diagnosis, not just at the end of their lives. Palliative care is part of the package of services that patients on ARVs should access during the course of their illness and treatment.
Ahead of their London meeting, the UK Consortium on AIDS and International Development launched a fact sheet focused on palliative care and HIV.
The fact sheet provides a definition of palliative care and sets out its relationship to HIV and AIDS. It also provides information on access to pain drugs as a barrier to effective palliative care provision.
It is encouraging to see palliative care recognised as an essential part of the global response to HIV.