The use of suboptimal antiretroviral therapy when applying for migration to Australia: a case series

Daniel Tran, Brent Allan, Alexandra Stratigos, Darryl O'Donnell, Dash Heath-Paynter, Aaron Cogle, Jason J. Ong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleOtherpeer-review


Background Australia imposes restrictions for people living with HIV (PLHIV) applying for permanent residency (PR), including spending less than AUD51,000 on medical costs over 10years. Some PLHIV opted for suboptimal and cheaper antiretroviral therapy (ART) regimens to increase their chances of receiving PR. We collated a case series to examine PLHIV on suboptimal ART because of visa issues. Methods We identified all patients applying for a PR in Australia who obtained nevirapine, efavirenz or zidovudine between July 2022 and July 2023 from the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre. Pathology results and records detailing psychological issues relating to the patients' wishes to remain on suboptimal ART were extracted from clinical records by two researchers. Results We identified six patients with a mean age of 39years migrating from Asian and European countries. Three patients used efavirenz, and three used nevirapine. All desired to remain on cheaper, suboptimal ART to stay below visa cost thresholds, which they considered to aid favourably with their application. Four displayed stress and anxiety arising from visa rejections, appeal deadlines and the lengthy visa application process. Conclusions Despite access to more effective and safer ART, we identified patients who chose to remain on cheaper ART to improve chances of obtaining an Australian visa, potentially putting their health at risk. We found significant evidence of stress and anxiety among patients. There is a need to review and revise current migration policies and laws in Australia that discriminate against PLHIV and jeopardise public health.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberSH24028
Number of pages6
JournalSexual Health
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2024

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