Another 1000 Queenslanders will get access to PrEP medication to help them reduce their chance of contracting HIV.
PrEP, which stand for pre-exposure prophylaxis, is a once-daily pill that has been found to dramatically reduce the risk of HIV transmission in HIV-negative people, in conjunction with other safe sex measures.
In early 2016, Health Minister Cameron Dick announced the Queensland government would fund 2000 places for Queenslanders in a four-year trial of the drug. Appointments with participants began last November.
“To date, 1970 of these places have been filled, hence the need for expansion,” he said.
“I’ve asked the department to put in place arrangements for another 1000 people to have the opportunity to access this effective treatment which has the ability to save lives.”
Twenty QPrEP trial sites in Brisbane, Ipswich, Toowoomba, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Bundaberg, Rockhampton, Mackay, Townsville and Cairns are now operational, including sexual health services, GPs, and community-based organisations across the state.
The Queensland AIDS Council, which operates the QPrEP trial with Queensland Health and the University of Queensland, welcomed the addition of the extra places.
“There is no doubt that PrEP has already prevented many new HIV notifications in Queensland, and we recognise the strong leadership taken by Mr Cameron Dick to invest further into HIV prevention in Queensland,” executive director Michael Scott said.
People are eligible to participate in the trial if they are HIV negative and are at high risk of acquiring HIV, which includes gay or bisexual men. The PrEP medication is provided free to trial participants.
For more information on how to get involved, visit the website here.
Around 10,000 Australians are currently receiving free PrEP through the trials being run by state and territory governments.
In August, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) frustrated HIV/AIDS organisations by delaying a decision to subsidise PrEP on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, which would put its purchase price within reach of many more Australians.
At the time, PBAC acknowledged PrEP’s effectiveness but were concerned about costs, prompting advocates to call for price negotiations with drug companies to be fast-tracked.
Earlier this year the World Health Organisation declared PrEP an “essential medicine”.