30 August 2017

NSW on track to eliminate HIV transmission

Clinical Communicable Disease

A record low in HIV diagnoses has NSW health experts expecting the state will reach its goal of all-but eliminating transmission by 2020.

The “rapid and dramatic” drop in diagnoses marked the lowest rate of HIV diagnoses since the beginning of the HIV epidemic in 1985, Kirby Institute researchers said.

Kirby Institute Director Professor David Cooper attributed the result to the widespread uptake of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in the state, helped substantially by a 6700-person study of the effectiveness of the drug regimen in HIV-negative men.

Gay and bisexual men, who were the main group targeted in the trial, were 39% less likely to be diagnosed with HIV at the beginning of this year compared with the same period of time over the last six years, Professor Cooper said.

“The results released in NSW provide strong evidence to support wide availability of PrEP to prevent HIV transmission,” he said.

“The rapid rate of decline in HIV diagnoses in NSW in 2016-2017 is unprecedented internationally.”

In particular, Professor Cooper and his colleagues pointed to the benefits of the quick rollout of the prophylaxis medication.

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, however, has declined to recommend listing the drug in light of its high cost and unsure cost-effectiveness at a population level.

PrEP advocates were quick to issue assurances that the PBAC rejection was not an indication the treatment was unsafe or ineffective.