The proposal to fund earlier access to HIV drugs has been welcomed by the New Zealand Aids Foundation which had already collected more than 6000 signatures on a petition about the issue.

Pharmac on Sunday announced it had begun consultation on a package of treatments it proposed to fund with the extra $60 million allocated to the organisation in a pre-Budget announcement.

Among the proposals was earlier access to four HIV anti-retrovirals which would benefit about 3000 New Zealanders.

New Zealand Aids Foundation executive director Jason Myers said the organisation was "delighted at the proposal".


The foundation started a petition calling for earlier access to the drugs about last September and today had 6527 signatures.

Myers said the Pharmac proposal was exactly what the organisation had been calling for.

"If the proposal goes through, people living with HIV will have access to immediate treatment."

At the moment, New Zealanders living with HIV are not eligible for treatment until their CD4 count drops below 500.

CD4 cells are a type of white blood cells in the blood which organise your immune system's response to infections. Measuring CD4 cells was a way to understand how healthy your body's immune system was.

The proposal to allow access to the treatment as soon as a person is diagnosed would align New Zealand with the international best practice recommended by the World Health Organisation since 2015, Myers said.

Studies had shown that those who started HIV treatment early were 57 per cent less likely to develop serious illness later in life, he said. It had also been proven that if a person living with HIV was being treated and had an undetectable viral load, then the risk of passing on the virus was almost zero.

Myers said the foundation would be making a submission to Pharmac supporting the proposal which would include the petition.

"We'll keep our fingers crossed for a positive outcome," he said.