Thousands Of Victorians Accessing PrEP While Federal Government Dithers And Delays

29 August 2016

A Victorian first study into new HIV prevention medication, Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), has reached a major milestone with more than 1300 Victorians now accessing the ground-breaking treatment.

Minister for Health, Jill Hennessy, today officially launched PrEPX, a new study where 2,600 people will receive PrEP through a partnership between the Andrews Labor Government, Alfred Health, Victorian AIDS Council and research partners the Burnet Institute and University of New South Wales.

The Labor Government is calling on the Federal Government to review a ruling against listing Truvada – PrEP medication approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration – on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

The decision is a major setback in providing ongoing and affordable access to the life changing drug for people at risk of HIV infection across Australia.

We are also calling on the Federal Government to take action in the interim to create a cost-effective solution to the issue of access to PrEP for high risk people.

While the Federal Government continues to dither and delay, the Labor Government will continue to expand access to the HIV prevention medicine in Victoria through the PrEPX study.

We are providing $1.4 million towards the 20-month long study which is now operating at a number of sites across metropolitan Melbourne including the Alfred Hospital and Melbourne Sexual Health Centre pharmacies.

Later this year, the study intends to expand to primary care clinics in large regional cities such as Geelong, Wodonga, Bendigo and outer metropolitan clinics.

In just four weeks, 1,300 Victorians at risk of HIV infection have already signed up to the PrEPX study.

This is an incredible achievement, undertaken in record time and a testament to Victoria’s world class response to HIV, delivered and designed in partnership with affected communities, clinicians and researchers.

The PrEPX study is expected to reduce new HIV infections in Victoria by up to 30 per cent over the next few years.

PrEP is the latest anti-retroviral medication in the fight against HIV. It is a way for people who don’t have HIV to prevent infection by taking a pill every day. Evidence shows, when taken consistently, it is 96-98 per cent effective at preventing HIV infection.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Health Jill Hennessy

We know PrEP is invaluable when it comes to stopping the spread of HIV it has the power to prevent infections and save lives.

A decision to not list Truvada on the PBS is extremely disappointing. The Federal Liberal Government needs to stop delaying and make this drug more affordable and accessible for people at risk of HIV.

PrEP is critical to achieving our goal of virtual elimination of new HIV infections by 2020 that’s why were giving thousands of Victorians access to it safely, when they need it and free from stigma and discrimination.

Quotes attributable to Alfred Health lead researcher and Infectious Disease Physician Dr Edwina Wright

This approach is highly novel and is breaking new ground. The fact we are the first study in the world to use only generic PrEP has generated interest from a number of leading international public health institutions.

Alfred Health is a leader in disease prevention and the influx of enrolments we have seen in this study is testament to that.

Quotes attributable to Victorian AIDS Council CEO Simon Ruth

The recent news that PrEP wont be recommended for listing on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme underscores how important PrEPX is for Victorians at risk of HIV. VAC has been working for years now to make sure gay men and others at risk of HIV understand what PrEP is, how it works and why it’s important.”

We congratulate Minister Hennessy and the Andrews Government for their commitment to HIV prevention, particularly now that we might have to wait even longer for access to affordable PrEP through the PBS.

Quotes attributable to Burnet Institute Head of the Centre for Population Health Professor Margaret Hellard

The rapid uptake of clinically supervised PrEP among Victorians at risk of HIV through the PrEPX project is unprecedented internationally. The demand speaks to the need to support a suite of evidence-based HIV prevention choices in Australia.

With the innovative HIV surveillance system maintained at the Burnet Institute with support from the Victorian Government, we are also in a unique position to determine the population-level impact of PrEP. Our experiences with the scale-up of PrEP will therefore have global influence on the future of HIV prevention.

Reviewed 19 August 2020

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