GAY men looking to reduce their likelihood of HIV diagnosis through the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, could try enlisting in the Australian Defence Force (ADF), with reports it has begun providing the treatment to some of its staff.
However, the ADF may have to pay top dollar to provide it, as PrEP medication has still not yet been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) — Australia’s peak regulatory body for medicines and blood products — nor is subsidised under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
[showads ad=MREC]Meanwhile, NSW-based LGBTI health body ACON has launched a new service aimed at providing gay men who do become diagnosed with HIV with more guidance on the range of services, and emotions, they will likely go through.
The ADF told the Star Observer two members of the force had been prescribed Truvada for PrEP.
a Defence spokesperson said: “Provision of Truvada for PrEP to ADF members is only done under the strict guidance and supervision of a HIV medical specialist and in accordance with clinical guidelines issued by the Australasian Society of HIV Medicine.”
The organisation did not go into detail about the circumstances in which it would be given to staff.
Truvada is approved by the TGA and is listed on the PBS schedule as a treatment for people living with HIV, but not as a PrEP treatment for HIV-negative people.
Unlike in America, where PrEP is widely available, because Truvada has yet to be licensed as a preventative treatment in Australia it is only available through a limited number of clinical studies or by importing the drugs at full cost.
Last month, a survey conducted by the Centre for Social Research in Health and the Kirby Institute at the University of NSW revealed more than a third of gay men in Sydney mistakenly thought PrEP was already available.
US pharmaceutical giant Gilead recently began the application process to have Truvada as PrEP approved by the TGA, which is the first step required before a PBS listing.
Health organisations have called on the government to fast track the availability of PrEP if Australia is to meet its target of zero HIV transmissions by 2020.
This week, ACON launched a new resource to help gay men newly diagnosed with HIV find information and support.
Called START, the program provides details about relevant services and gives personal experiences from other HIV positive men who have got to grips with treatment, counselling and lifestyle options.
ACON chief executive Nicolas Parkhill said for most people, HIV was a manageable condition.
“However, receiving an HIV diagnosis can be a challenging experience and accessing the wide range of care and support services that are available to help people manage their diagnosis is an important part of the process of being newly diagnosed,” he said.
He added that the START resource had been written by gay men living with HIV based on their personal experiences.
“There are myriad of feelings and emotions you can experience when diagnosed with HIV but knowing your status means you can take control of your health,” Parkhill said.
“The resource addresses all the common myths about HIV, how to access the right medical care, how to enjoy a fulfilling sex life and how to make the right choices for you and your partner.”
More information on START can be found at the ACON website.