The Queensland AIDS Council has urged at-risk Queenslanders not to wait for cheaper PrEP through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, and to sign up for free medication through places still available on the state’s QPrEPd trial.
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 by up to 99 per cent, in conjunction with other safe sex measures.
Last Friday, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee recommended that PrEP be subsidised by the federal government, meaning that the cost of PrEP to those at risk will plummet and the drug will be available through GPs and local pharmacies.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has previously said the government will list PrEP quickly following the PBAC’s approval, but the actual date of access to the drug through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme is yet to be announced.
The Queensland AIDS Council (QuAC) is encouraging any people who are currently not on PrEP and feel they are at risk of HIV transmission, not to wait and join the QPrePd study, which still has places available.
“The announcement is undoubtedly a breakthrough for HIV prevention in Australia, and will likely be a turning point from which we see the decline of new HIV transmissions Australia-wide,” QuAC executive director Michael Scott said.
“Whilst PrEP will not be available through the PBS immediately, we urge people not to put off accessing PrEP now.
“Anyone considering accessing PrEP shouldn’t wait for a PBS listing date, as PrEP is free and accessible through the current QPrEP study.”
Queenslanders 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.
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.
People already enrolled on the QPrEPd study will either ultimately transition to access through the PBS, or maintain access to PrEP through their trial arrangements until 2020.
More information is available from the QPrEPd website.
The Victorian government announced on Monday it would fund the state’s PrEPX study for an additional three months until June 30, to ensure participants get uninterrupted access to the medication until its PBS listing.
The government said more than 4,000 Victorians had accessed PrEP through the study, and the additional funding would allow them to transition to accessing PrEP through their GP.
Health Minister Jill Hennessy said the federal subsidy “will have a tremendous effect on at-risk Victorians and Australians, and will fundamentally improve our HIV prevention response.”
In New South Wales, more than 8000 people are accessing PrEP through the state’s study.
“For [those enrolled] in the EPIC-NSW study, the message is to continue taking and accessing your PrEP as usual,” ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill said.
“More information will be available in the coming weeks and months, and you will receive communication about any changes soon.”