NORWAY will become the first country to offer the HIV preventative drug Truvada through its national health service.

Truvada is the medication taken as part of the pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) treatment for people at risk of acquiring HIV. PrEP has been proven to drastically reduce the risk of acquiring HIV and is currently only available in a few countries including; France, United States, Norway and South Africa.

In Australia, PrEP is available by prescription but because it has not yet been approved to be added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) it can cost hundreds of dollars per prescription. Many Australians who use PrEP import it from overseas, often through collectives such as PrEPAccessNow.

Norway’s Minister for Health and Social Care Bent Høie made announced the news earlier this week, saying Truvada would be available in the country and given to people at risk of acquiring HIV for free. t

Local organisation, HIV Norway, lobbied to have PrEP in the country for years along with the Institute of Public Health and the Health Directorate.

“PrEP will contribute to reducing the rate of new infections in the gay community, as gay men are facing a risk of infection much higher than the general population,” stated Leif-Ove Hansen, the president of HIV Norway.

“Condom use is on the decline,” he continued, “and we are happy that PrEP now is an integrated part of the public health service.”

Australia’s HIV organisations have congratulated Norway on its commitment to making PrEP available to is citizens.

“The decision to make PrEP freely available to these communities is yet another fantastic endorsement of PrEP as a key strategy to reduce HIV transmission,” said Heath Paynter, deputy CEO, Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations.

“AFAO is committed to supporting Australia to meet its obligation to virtually eliminate HIV by 2020 and this means making PrEP available through the PBS. In the interim we are working with key stakeholders and governments around the country to make PrEP as accessible as possible, and to make the community aware of the range of options to access PrEP.”

NSW’s ACON CEO Nicholas Parkhill said PrEP was vital in the fight to reduce HIV transmissions.

“Norway’s decision to provide free PrEP for those at risk of HIV transmission is to be congratulated. We know that PrEP works and affordable access to it will be key to driving down new infections in the future,” he said.

“Norway’s decision to put in place this new approach demonstrates evidence based public health policy. It would be great to see that reflected here across Australia, as well as in other countries across the world”.

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