The Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations has welcomed a government commitment to make HIV prevention medication PrEP available through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme if it wins approval at a key meeting in July.
PrEP, short for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis and also known by its brand name Truvada, is a once-daily pill that has been shown to dramatically reduce the risk of HIV transmission in people at high risk.
But because the PrEP medication is not available on the PBS, it costs hundreds and is too expensive for many men to afford. An application to get it listed on the PBS – and reduce the cost of the pills to no more than $38.80 – was rejected by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) last August, with the committee saying the cost of making PrEP available to all at-risk people was too high.
But that may change at the next PBAC meeting in July when two applications to get PrEP onto the PBS are considered by the committee.
“We will continue to provide affordable access to new medicines that are recommended by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee without fear or favour,” federal health minister Greg Hunt said last week, announcing the addition of $310 million worth of new medicines had been added to the PBS ahead of the federal budget on Tuesday.
AFAO CEO Darryl O’Donnell said on Wednesday it was “highly reassuring” to hear the commitment.
“PrEP can prevent thousands of HIV transmissions in the years ahead, but only if it’s affordable and available to those who need it,” he said.
“PrEP is critical to effectively ending new HIV transmission by 2020. Alongside new HIV testing technology, continued safe sex and an enduring commitment to a community-led HIV response, we can end this epidemic.”
Approximately 10,000 people are currently receiving free PrEP medication through trials being run by state and territory governments.
The Queensland government recently said there were still several hundred spaces available in the QPrEP trial at sites all around the state, and encouraged more eligible men to join.