THE news overnight that France had approved PrEP was welcomed by Australian health professionals who believe it could influence when the treatment would become readily available down under.

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a prevention option for people who are at high risk of acquiring HIV and it is only available in Australia for people who can afford to import it from online pharmacies.

France became the second country after the US to approve PrEP for people who need it. Significantly, France has a healthcare system similar to Australia’s where the drug will be provided for free by the government — it most likely will be subsidised by the Australian government should it approve its sale here.

“It’s beautiful news,” Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) executive director Rob Lake said

“(France) has led the way on research… all these studies are showing, people who take the pills they don’t get HIV.

“We hope it raises the pressure on the government here.”

Currently, Truvada (the PrEP drug) is currently awaiting approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and from there it must still be approved to go onto the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) to make it affordable for most people.

Both are lengthy processes and the longer Australians wait for it the greater the risk more people will contract HIV, whose transmission could have been prevented with PrEP.

“Last year 750 men got HIV… while we wait more men could become infected,” Lake said.

“We’ve been raising the question for a long time with government about the assessment time… it’s not that there’s not enough studies (to prove its effectiveness).”

Lake said AFAO would continue to lobby the government to fast-track the approval of PrEP in Australia.

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