THE Greens will today introduce a motion calling on the South Australian government to trial pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) among men at high-risk of acquiring HIV.
The motion will be introduced in parliament by Greens member Tammy Franks, who will then bring it to a vote in the upper house later this month.
Franks said South Australia must also rise to the international goal of reaching zero new HIV infections by 2020.
“There were still 69 new diagnosed infections in our state [in 2013] and 1,440 in total,” she said.
“Low compared to the mainland eastern states but still unacceptably high when we know we can do so much more.
“Why should South Australians miss out on a drug that is being trialled and so available just over the border, especially when this drug gives people control over their health and provides peace of mind?”
Franks said the Labor party had been ‘strongly resistant’ to running a trial which prompted her to put the motion up in the first place.
During a recent phone conversation the government told her the prospective pool of participants in a PrEP trial would be too small to run one.
If Labor votes against the trial, Franks will need both the Liberal, Greens, and independent members to get it passed.
However, she hopes the introduction of the motion will start a conversation in the Labor party in the lead up to the vote.
“Rather than sit on the sidelines the South Australian government could be actively preventing potential harm,” she said.
“Surely South Australia Health isn’t in the business of sitting idly by while people get needlessly sick?
“It’s the Department of Health not the department for doing nothing.”
Each new HIV infection brings with it significant health and personal impacts, with lifelong costs estimated at $200,000 to $300,000.
“Surely if there was a smaller group of participants it would make it both more cheaper and more manageable,” Franks said.
“In many ways it’s as much a health intervention as a ‘clinical trial.'”
Chief Executive of the Victorian AIDS Council Simon Ruth pointed out that South Australia had committed to ending new HIV infections along with all other Australian governments.
“All Australian governments have committed to a target of no new infections by 2020,” he said.
“This target is unachievable unless all evidence based prevention options are made available.
“PrEP is by far the most effective form of prevention for those at high risk of HIV and needs to be made available as quickly as possible.”
While PrEP has been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), a submission to subsidise it under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) was denied earlier this year.
After introducing the motion for a trial in South Australia, it will be voted on November 30 – the day before World AIDS Day.
Minister for Health Jack Snelling was contacted for comment.