A NEW HIV initiative which has been described as “a shot of adrenaline to the heart of the HIV response” has just been launched in Melbourne.
Rapture, which stands for Rapid Agile PrEP Team for a Unified Responsive End, was founded by PrEP advocate Rodney Ellis and HIV activist Daniel Brace who are aiming to roll out PrEP awareness and education to HIV negative people across Australia.
[showads ad=MREC] PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a HIV preventative treatment in the form of a blue pill which has been proven to dramatically reduce the risk of acquiring HIV but it is not currently available in Australia, pending approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
However, people in Australia can obtain a prescription from their doctor for PrEP but they have to order it from online international pharmacies and import it themselves.
“The idea grew out of our conversations about the lack of support for the PrEP message and how confusing it was that PrEP was listed or readily available,” Brace said.
“We were all being focused on the decision makers in Canberra as the block to PrEP access. But then I discovered through groups like PrEPAccessNow and PrEP’ed for Change, made up of individuals accessing PrEP regardless of the PBS (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme) or TGA process.
“I started talking to Rodney and we were united in wanting to make ‘getting to zero’ a reality. Once we got started it became crystal clear: we could do something, and we would.”
Rapture will adopt the Agile methodology of project management to empower anybody in the community to run PrEP information events.
“This plan gives everyone at every level a role… HIV negative people need to be getting and giving the message to pop a pill. Existing HIV organisations can bring the bigger promotions that need a bit more experience to life,” Ellis said.
“The Rapture plan has analysed what each of the people and groups are that care in the HIV landscape are and what resources, communications and inspirations they will need to get excited and get moving.
“The key to Rapture is getting ordinary people involved in every way you can imagine. Eventually we want proposals about PrEP promotions, hundreds, maybe thousands of them from everywhere.”
Brace said PrEP and “PrEP’ers” needed a seat at the table.
“PrEP users need messages, campaigns, awareness and celebration for the big part they will play in reducing HIV transmissions,” he said.
“It means that soon the HIV community will not be expanding anymore with new HIV infections and that we can continue the healing processes together, positive and negative, as people not united by a virus but united in purpose.
“There are many other challenges yet to be faced by our community.”
The Rapture team are still waiting on funding from the federal and state governments to get started and if the support is confirmed it will begin on June 1.