New Zealand has become one of only a few countries in the world to publicly fund PrEP and the price per month for eligible men will likely be incredibly cheap.
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.
New Zealand’s Pharmaceutical Management Agency (PHARMAC) has announced the medication, also known by its brand name Truvada, will be available at a subsidised rate from 1 March to an estimated 4000 New Zealanders at high risk of acquiring HIV.
The cost of a quarterly prescription will be NZ$5 (AU$4.60) which works out to be about NZ$1.65 a month, according to the New Zealand AIDS Foundation (NZAF).
“Providing affordable access to PrEP for those who need it will make an enormous difference to those most at risk of HIV transmission in New Zealand,” NZAF executive director Dr Jason Myers said.
“It’s a giant leap forward for our ambitious goal of ending new HIV transmissions in New Zealand by 2025.”
He said PHARMAC’s decision to follow its advice and include transgender men as being eligible to access the subsidised PrEP was “a very important step in addressing one of the health inequalities faced by trans men.”
In 2016 New Zealand recorded its highest number of new HIV cases ever in one year, with 244 people diagnosed.
PHARMAC Chief Executive Sarah Fitt said, “Together with safe sex practise, early diagnosis and access to treatment, we expect that PrEP will significantly reduce HIV transmission rates in New Zealand.
“Condoms continue to be the primary and recommended method of preventing transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.”
Around 10,000 Australians are currently receiving free PrEP through the trials being run by state and territory governments, including in Queensland.
Twenty QPrEP trial sites in Brisbane, Ipswich, Toowoomba, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Bundaberg, Rockhampton, Mackay, Townsville and Cairns are now in operation.
Last August, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) frustrated HIV/AIDS organisations by delaying a decision to subsidise PrEP for Australians 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.
Last year the World Health Organisation declared PrEP an “essential medicine”.