Anyone at a high risk of HIV transmission will now have access to a cheap and highly effective preventative medicine, thanks to the government’s PBS listing of Truvada.
The pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) will be prescribed by GPs without the need for any additional training, echoing the broad-access listing of hepatitis C drugs.
This has been welcomed by health groups as a major step forward in efforts to eliminate HIV.
“Despite the significant progress we have made in prevention, diagnosis and treatment of HIV over the last 30 years, around 1000 new cases of HIV continue to be diagnosed in Australia each year,” sexual health expert, Clinical Associate Professor Darren Russell, at the University of Melbourne, said.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the $180 million listing would set up the country to become one of the first in the world to end HIV transmission.
Until now, access to the medication was only available through clinical trials or individually, at great expense.
But as of April 1, the government will subsidy Truvada (tenofovir disoproxil fumarate/emtricitabine, Gilead) for anyone over the age of 18 who is at high risk of HIV transmission, to be used in conjunction with other safe sex practices.
Doctors can prescribe three months’ worth of the once-daily pill once the patient has been screened for HIV-1. Patients who are positive or have an unknown HIV status are ineligible.
Though the drug is up to 99% effective at preventing infection, side effects can include stomach area pain, headache and decreased weight, and the drug may interact with nephrotoxic agents, antiretroviral agents and hepatitis C antiviral agents.
PrEP was recommended for inclusion on the PBS by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee last February.