Access to HIV Antiretroviral Therapy among People Living with HIV in Melbourne during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Dooyeon Lee, Eric P.F. Chow, Ivette Aguirre, Christopher K. Fairley, Jason J. Ong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The social measures taken to control the COVID-19 pandemic can potentially disrupt the management of HIV. The objective of this study was to examine the impact of the Australian COVID-19 lockdown restrictions on access to antiretroviral therapy (ART) for people living with HIV in Melbourne. Using data from the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre (MSHC), we assessed the changes in rates of ART postal delivery, controlled viral load, and ART dispensing from 2018 to 2020. The percentage of ART delivered by postage from the MSHC pharmacy was calculated weekly. The percentage of people living with HIV with a controlled viral load (≤200 copies/mL) was calculated monthly. We calculated a yearly Medication Possession Ratio (MPR). The average percentage of HIV ART dispensed through postage for the years 2018, 2019, and 2020 was 3.7% (371/10,023), 3.6% (380/10,685), and 14% (1478/10,765), respectively (Ptrend < 0.0001). Of the 3115 people living with HIV, the average MPR for 2018, 2019, and 2020 was 1.05, 1.06, and 1.14, respectively (Ptrend = 0.28). The average percentage of people with an HIV viral load of <200 copies/mL for the years 2018, 2019, and 2020 was 97.6% (2271/2327), 98.0% (2390/2438), and 99.2% (2048/2064), respectively (Ptrend < 0.0001). This study found that the proportion of controlled viral load and access to ART of people living with HIV in Melbourne was largely unaffected by the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. This suggests that some of the services provided by the MSHC during the pandemic, such as HIV ART postal delivery, may assist long-term HIV management.

Original languageEnglish
Article number12765
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number23
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021


  • Antiretroviral therapy
  • Australia
  • COVID-19
  • HIV
  • Pandemics
  • Viral load

Cite this