PReP has proven extremely effective when taken properly in trials overseas and locally. Photo: Michel O’Sullivan
Queensland needs to join trials to help stop new HIV transmissions in the next four years, the state’s AIDS Council has urged, with New South Wales and Victoria both embarking on PrEP trials.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, involves the use of antiretroviral drugs by HIV-negative people to help prevent infection. Studies have found it works.
NSW committed to a trial of 3700 people late last year, while Victoria announced a similar trial last week.
Queensland AIDS Council executive director Michael Scott said he believed Queensland needed a trial with at least 3000 people to avoid the risk of “falling behind” the other eastern states in addressing HIV prevention.
“PrEP is not really widely accessible within Queensland,” he said.
“It is not TGA approved and not on the PBS and the way people are accessing it at the moment, aside from any trial happening in Australia, is importation.
“The easiest way at the moment and the best way to access PrEP is to import it, but that takes time, there is a cost associated with that and you need a doctor to write a script, which the clinics provide, but if you live in a regional or remote area, you may not have access to a doctor.”
To buy within Australia, PrEP costs about $10,000 a year, while imported the cost drops to about $1300 a year.
Queensland has committed $250,000 for a “demonstration project ” in six places across the state, from Cairns to Brisbane, but while it has not ruled out expanding its PrEP project, Health Minister Cameron Dick said he believed wider approval was the better option.
“Our government recognises the valuable role PrEP can play in strengthening our chance of further reducing the number of new HIV cases we see in Queensland,” he said.
“…But the best way for PrEP to become widely available and accessible to those who need it is through its approval by the Therapeutic Goods Administration and listing on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.”
A target to “end HIV” has been set for 2020.