HIV advocates say the US approval of the first drug to prevent HIV is a “dramatic development in the fight against HIV”.
Australian HIV organisations are now calling for the federal Government to start trials of the anti-retroviral drug Truvada to learn more and prevent further infections.
This week the US Food and Drug Administration approved the use of Truvada to reduce the risk of sexually-acquired HIV infection in HIV-negative people.
National Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS (NAPWA) spokesman Bill Whittaker told the Star Observer the news was a “game-changer”.
“It’s really a dramatic development in the fight against HIV because for the first time we have a drug that can be used by HIV-negative people at high risk of becoming HIV-infected which will prevent infection or give a high level of protection against infection,” he said.
“We’ve never had that before.”
Whittaker added Truvada was not a “silver bullet” against HIV infection and needed to be used with condoms and other safe-sex practices.
“But its a very important additional weapon… to use against new infections,” he said.
He said Truvada would be a priority for gay men in Australia and internationally.
“They have high rates for HIV… which mean gay men are probably more than any other population, at risk of HIV,” he said.
“We’ve certainly fought for positive people to have access to treatment for many years and we’ll join the fight to ensure that relevant negative people at high risk also have the option to treatment.”
Truvada has not been trialled in Australia and Whittaker called on the Australian Government to establish a clinical trial of the drug.
Whittaker said he believed the cost of infections prevented would outweigh the cost of the drug.
“We’re today publicly urging the Health Minister [Tanya Plibersek] to get going on pushing this through the system,” he said.
Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) deputy CEO Simon Donohoe has also backed the call to immediately begin Truvada clinical trials in Australia.
“Truvada has the potential to make a significant dent in the HIV infection rate,” he said.
“US authorities have recognised this and Australian policy makers should follow suit.”