25 July 2019
Today’s decision to approve PrEP on the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme represents a positive step forward for HIV prevention in Australia, says the Northern Territory AIDS and Hepatitis Council.
The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) today recommended listing Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for subsidised dispensing on the PBS for those at high risk of contracting HIV throughout the country.
PrEP refers to the use of HIV treatment medicine as a pre-emptive measure to stop HIV negative people from contracting the virus. Taken regularly, the PrEP has been shown to be 99% effective at preventing HIV transmission amongst gay and bisexual men.
PrEP was first approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) in May 2016, but widespread availability of the drug has been limited due to its high cost.
PrEP trials have already yielded pleasing results in Australia, with the drug having been made available for free as part of trials in ACT, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia. As yet, however, widespread availability of PrEP has eluded residents of the NT, who have been faced with the choice of paying full price for the drug or importing it from overseas as part of the Australia’s Personal Importation Scheme for Medicines.
“The announcement of today’s recommendation to include PrEP on the PBS is a welcome step forward in ending HIV transmission in Australia, particularly as it extends more equitable access to this highly effective medication to residents of the NT” said NTAHC Executive Director, Kerrie Jordan.
The inclusion of PrEP on the PBS will mean that any doctor or general practitioner will be able to prescribe PrEP to an Australian resident who holds a current Medicare card.
“Widespread availability of PrEP is, however, just once piece in the puzzle with regard to the bigger picture of HIV prevention in the NT”, Kerrie added. “Issues remain in relation to PrEP access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, especially those living in rural and remote areas, who have limited access to health services, including sexual health testing and treatment. We need to ensure noone is left behind”
Although PrEP is a great tool in HIV prevention, it is only one tool out of a suite of tools that are critical to achieving the goal of HIV elimination. Governments must continue to fund community and peer led efforts to conduct education, community outreach and workforce development and to implement specialised programs to engage with “hidden” populations at risk of being left behind, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Promoting condom use remains an important tool in the tool box as does “treatment as prevention”. Grassroots and peer led community organisations are best placed to engage with affected populations. We will need to implement a broad range of strategies if we are to realise the full benefits of PrEP listing.
NTAHC can assist you in finding inclusive and informed doctors to prescribe PrEP in the NT.
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Media Contact: Kerrie Jordan, Executive Director, NTAHC Ph. (08) 8944 7701 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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