THE Victorian Government has announced it will provide additional funding towards the state’s pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) trial to give nearly 4,000 people access to the HIV prevention pill.

While the trial has already seen nearly 3,000 people access the drug, there is still over 600 people on the waiting list. To clear this list, the state government will provide an additional $100,000 in funding towards the trial.

The announcement follows a Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting on Friday morning, where Victoria called on the federal government to take action and provide additional funding for high-risk people to access PrEP now.

However, these calls were not responded to.

Minister for Health Jill Hennessy said she was disappointed at the federal government’s lack of response around the issue.

“It is extremely disappointing that once again the Federal Liberal government are delaying and refusing to take the action required to make this life-saving drug more affordable and accessible for people at risk of HIV,” she said.

“PrEP is critical to achieving our goal of virtual elimination of new HIV infections by 2020 but we can’t do it alone.

“Our funding boost will mean the hundreds of Victorians waiting to access PrEP won’t have to wait any longer.”

The funding announcement follows a similar $100,000 funding boost by the Victorian AIDS Council (VAC) earlier this year, who also called on the federal government to fund PrEP nationally to no avail.

Chief Executive of VAC Simon Ruth said the state government’s announcement is an important step, but now Australia needs the federal government to take action.

“The fact that so many are enrolling in the trial shows real motivation by the public to take responsibility for their sexual health and the prevention of HIV transmission,” he said.

“At this stage the federal government needs to acknowledge that community demand and demonstrate their commitment to making PrEP accessible and affordable to everyone as quickly as possible.”

Currently only half of Australia’s states and territories have government-supported access to PrEP, and among those with trials, only the New South Wales trial is uncapped.

Michael Whelan from the community PrEP activist group PrEPaccessNOW believes all states and territories should have equal access to the drug.

“This level of inequity and inconsistency in PrEP access across the states is shameful and harmful,” he said.

“The federal government cannot stand idly by and just hope that this issue will simply fix itself.

“PrEP works – and federal funding is essential to ensure PrEP access to all Australians.”

Victoria’s state PrEP trial is expected to reduce new HIV infections in the state by up to 30 per cent over the next few years.

PrEP is a way for people who don’t have HIV to prevent infection by taking a pill every day. Evidence has shown it is up to 98 per cent effective in preventing HIV infection.

If you live in Victoria or South Australia and wish to enrol in the PrEP trials, visit the Alfred Health PrEP website by clicking here.

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