The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee has recommended PrEP drugs be added to the PBS, potentially reducing the cost of HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis to under $40 a month.
“The PBAC was satisfied that tenofovir with emtricitabine provides, for some patients, a significant reduction in the risk of sexually-acquired HIV, in combination with other safe sex practices, compared with safe sex practices alone,” the committee said.
PrEP drugs, available in Australia under the brand names Truvada, Tenofovir Disoproxil Emtricitabine Mylan 300/200, and Tenofovir EMT GH, have been found to cut the risk of HIV by up to 99% if taken daily.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has previously promised government funding for the drug if approved by the committee.
Victorian AIDS Council CEO Simon Ruth told ABC media the drugs should be available by the middle of the year from any doctor or pharmacy.
Prior to initiating PrEP, a patient needs to undergo tests to ensure they are HIV-negative and have normal renal function. Patients then need to be monitored every three months.
There are already around 13,000 Australians taking PrEP drugs as part of trials being run by state governments and other health organisations.
According to a University of New South Wales annual survey, there were an estimated 26,000 Australians living with HIV in 2016.
The PBAC decision should help a government objective, agreed in 2014 by all ministers of health, of effectively eliminating new HIV infections in Australia by 2020.