COMMUNITY organisations, activists, and researchers last night came together to sign a historic accord on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in Melbourne.
The accord outlined a number of shared principles around the HIV prevention tool in areas such as education, stigma, and approval in Australia.
PrEP’d for Change co-creator Daniel MacPhail said the move helps to send a message of unity to the broader gay community.
“If we’re all working together and working towards the same goals I think [the accord] sends a united message,” he told the Star Observer.
“When the public receives different information telling them different things it causes confusion, and when there’s confusion there’s doubt… that’s the last thing we want for something so new and so powerful.
“It really says to the wider community that all these guys are shooting towards the same goal.”
MacPhail said he aimed to inform the public about PrEP alongside his fellow co-creator of PrEP’d for Change, Chris Williams.
“We really see ourselves as educators for people who are eligible for PrEP and we want to do it really well,” MacPhail said.
“There’s a lot of talk about what people aren’t doing and it’s worth taking stock of how far we’ve come in the last two years.”
The accord came about after a recent community PrEP summit and was signed during the second birthday celebrations of the PRONTO! clinic, a rapid HIV-testing service.
VAC chief executive Simon Ruth said the accord help strengthen the aims of those working in the sector.
“The accord is an opportunity to ensure that VAC and others who are working to make PrEP available are all on the same page,” he said.
“Even if we’re taking different paths, we’ll support each other’s work – we don’t want to inadvertently impede the progress we’re making.
“We all have the same goal… making PrEP available for those who need it.”
PrEP is a HIV prevention method, such as the Truvada pill, that has been proven to significantly reduce a person’s chance of contracting HIV.
It is not yet approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) or subsidised on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), but it can be prescribed “off-label” to at-risk patients.
Last month a poster campaign was launched in Melbourne and Sydney by an anonymous group called PrEP Action Now, which pilloried the VAC and ACON for not acting efficiently enough to bring PrEP to Australia.
VicPrEP study investigator Dean Murphy said the accord would help to inform gay men about the benefits of the HIV prevention tool.
“The accord recognises the role of community representatives and advocates to ensure increased access to PrEP and educating gay men about its benefits,” he said.