A NEW series of comedy sketches are being released to raise awareness about PrEP as a new HIV prevention too.

Queensland AIDS Council (QuAC) released the first video sketch, ‘Pocket Dial’ online last week.

The sketch was filmed in Spring Hill last September using QuAC volunteers after input from a cross-section of community groups.

A second video will be launched at next Tuesday’s AFAO ‘National Gay Men’s HIV Health Promotion Conference 2016’ as a round table featuring five local guys talking about sex.

QuAC’s Health Promotion Officer Robert Muscolino told Star Observer the video campaign is designed to engage the gay/MSM community through humour, teaching them about PrEP via the campaign’s website ComePrEPd.info.

ComePRePd is the first creative campaign by an Australian community-based HIV organisation for raising awareness in both the LGBTI and mainstream communities, positioning PrEP as a new HIV prevention tool.

“As far as I’m aware, we’re the only AIDS council taking this unique humour approach to health promotion with a sex positive (affirming) tone,” Muscolino said.

PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) substantially reduces the risk of contracting HIV in HIV negative people through a daily dose of the medication.

“We will be debuting new videos throughout 2016 at various LGBTI events such as the Brisbane Pride Fair and Queens Ball. Currently, there are three video sketches and four roundtable videos in the works,” Muscolino said.

“It’s a PrEP awareness campaign created through consultation with Queensland’s gay/MSM community at meetings held at QuAC Brisbane over the last seven months.”

The campaign is important as community knowledge around PrEP is not only limited, but there is also a lot of misinformation out there. Gay men need to talk about PrEP and to ask questions, Muscolino told the Star Observer. It is important that gay men (particularly those at highest risk of HIV) are aware that PrEP is currently available in Australia via online importation.

The ComePrEPd directory lists general practitioners (GPs) who are LGBTI friendly, as well as experienced in both prescribing and monitoring PrEP.

Most GPs have little knowledge of PrEP.  Currently there are only 11 GPs in the Queensland PrEP prescriber directory with two more Queensland prescribers listing shortly. Other states will be rolled out in the directory in the coming months.

Currently, access to PReP is available through overseas websites with a prescription. Approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), Australia’s peak regulatory body for medicines and blood products, is still pending for its use as a HIV prevention method.

PrEP purchases are not subsidised under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). A GP’s prescription is required for purchasing generic PReP legally online at a discount. All these steps are explained on the ComePrEPd website.

QUaC feels PrEP is a vital new tool in preventing HIV transmission, and it is important to remember that PrEP will not prevent the transmission of other STIs. It is equally important to continue condom reinforcement and promote the use of PrEP at the same time, so that gay men can make informed decisions on what is right for their sexual health.

“The important change that PrEP has brought to our community of sexually active gay men is the reduction of anxiety associated with sex, and with condom-less sex. People who are not anxious about sexual health are more likely to make better, and better informed sexual health decisions for themselves,” Muscolino said.

The Queensland State Government has also welcomed PrEP as an important tool in preventing HIV transmission. The Minister for Health Cameron Dick has announced the formation of a working group to determine the best steps forward for the scaling up of a demonstration project to boost PrEP access across Queensland.

The Working Group consists of collaboration between Queensland Health, Queensland AIDS Council and the HIV Foundation. A response from the Health Minister is expected shortly.

The ComePRePd campaign will continue welcoming community input, mostly contributions to the campaign’s ‘Story Telling’ component of real experiences from guys currently on PrEP.

Please contact QuAC rmuscolino@quac.org.au if you would like to be involved in the campaign.

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