THE Victorian Government has announced it would enable trained GPs to provide pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) offline without approval.

The announcement was made by state Health Minister Jill Hennessy during the World AIDS Day conference in Melbourne, where a number of speakers came together to discuss the future of HIV prevention and treatment.

 PrEP, which is an umbrella term for HIV prevention drugs such as Truvada, hasn’t yet been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) nor subsidised by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) — forcing many gay men to import PrEP from overseas.

However, Hennessy said allowing Section 100 doctors to prescribe it to at-risk patients will make a big difference.

“PrEP is a drug that has shown enormous signs of success, particularly internationally, in dealing with what was once an incredibly challenging epidemic,” she said.

“We think this is an important interim step until we can get the very important access to PrEP through the TGA and PBS.

“If we’re really serious about meeting the targets we’ve set ourselves, I think this will be a turning point in terms of PrEP, which will become a part of our HIV strategy.”

Section 100 doctors are GPs who have had specific training in HIV prevention and understand the risks their patients face.

“We estimate there are approximately 50 GPs eligible at the moment, and we’re simply providing guidelines and the legal security to allow them to provide PrEP to these patients,” Hennessy said.

“There is no doubt that this drug is part of the future story of HIV prevention and treatment in this country.”

At the conference, Hennessy and Lord Mayor Robert Doyle also announced Melbourne as the first Australian city to become part of Fast Track Cities, an initiative between UNAIDS, UN-Habitat, International Association of Providers of AIDS Care, and the City of Paris.

Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy and City of Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle at the World AIDS Day conference launch today. (PHOTO: Andrew Henshaw; Supplied)

Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy and City of Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle at the World AIDS Day conference launch today. (PHOTO: Andrew Henshaw; Supplied)

Those currently involved in Fast Track Cities include London, New York and Paris, all of which pledged to achieve the UNAIDS goal of 90-90-90 HIV treatment targets by 2020.

Doyle said this would provide recognition around the importance of these goals to those in Victoria.

“This is a very important symbolic gesture because it says we commit ourselves to getting to zero by 2020. Zero new infections, zero discrimination, and zero deaths,” he said.

“That’s a very ambitious target but one we should commit ourselves to.”

In Australia, 86 per cent of people living with HIV are aware they have it.

Speakers at the World AIDS Day event also commented on the importance of eradicating the stigma around HIV.

Living Positive Victoria chief executive Brent Allan said discrimination and prejudice around the virus was one of the key barriers to eradicating it.

“The HIV epidemic is not over in Victoria and as you’ve heard there’s much to be done,” he said.

“The pledges to get to 90-90-90… none of this will happen until we undermine the stigma that continues to thwart all of our efforts and affect the lives of everyone living with HIV.

“I have a theory that if everyone who is HIV positive came out simultaneously today, we could end the stigma.”

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