THE Victorian AIDS Council (VAC) has announced it will provide an additional $100,000 in funding to the current pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) trial in the state, allowing an extra 600 gay and bisexual men to join it.

The current trial in Victoria is at capacity for men living in metropolitan Melbourne, with a substantial waiting list for those wishing to access the HIV prevention pill as part of the trial.

VAC is also calling on the federal government to use discretionary funding to support broader access to PrEP, after an application to have the drug subsidised and listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) was knocked back last year.

Chief Executive of VAC Simon Ruth said it’s embarrassing that Australia still hasn’t subsidised PrEP and made it more readily available.

“It’s time the federal government looked at other options,” he said.

“People at risk of HIV across most of the country don’t have subsidised access to PrEP, and even in states that do we’ve seen spaces in the public PrEP trials fill up in no time.

“The Seventh National HIV strategy is now three years old, and HIV-prevention has changed a lot over that time – the strategy only mentions PrEP in passing.

“We call on the incoming federal health minister to show a genuine commitment to HIV-prevention and to take PrEP seriously.”

PrEP is a highly effective method of HIV prevention, where HIV-negative people take the medication to significantly reduce their risk of acquiring the virus.

It has been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) however it was rejected by the PBS in August last year and will not likely be reconsidered for listing until later this year.

VAC President Chad Hughes believes PrEP is incredibly important in the fight to end HIV.

“The federal government has committed to ending HIV by 2020, and it can’t meet that commitment without PrEP,” he said.

“We again congratulate the state government for establishing the PrEPX trial and helping thousands of Victorians at risk of HIV access this vital HIV prevention tool.”

 

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