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PrEP on hold

A decision to subsidise PrEP has been deferred, much to the disappointment of HIV advocates. “Given PrEP is so effective at preventing HIV transmission, people will be disappointed and deeply frustrated at this outcome,” said Darryl O’Donell, CEO of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO).

Drug companies Mylan and Gilead Sciences both brought applications for PrEP before the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) which has decided to hold off on a decision while it seeks further information on the number of people likely to use PrEP and conducts price negotiations.

Approximately 31,000 Australian gay and bisexual men are at high risk of HIV and would benefit from PrEP’s listing on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). AFAO, along with other HIV organisations, recommends that the two drug companies and PBAC fast-track negotiations as a matter of urgency. “HIV will be needlessly transmitted while we wait for equitable and affordable access to PrEP,” said O’Donnell.

Robert Mitchell, Vice-President of the National Association of People with HIV Australia, also strongly endorses urgent discussions to ensure PrEP is listed on the PBS as soon as possible. “PrEP keeps people at high risk of HIV safe and gives people control and confidence,” he said. “This helps everyone take responsibility for HIV prevention.”

Extremely effective at protecting against HIV, PrEP — pre-exposure prophylaxis — has shown to be a valuable tool in the arsenal to end new transmissions. Indeed, the UK PROUD study has shown that for every 13 people on PrEP, one HIV transmission is avoided. “Australia’s HIV rate has stubbornly plateaued at around 1,100 new infections per year for the past five years,” said O’Donnell. “With PrEP at the centre of a revived response, we would make serious inroads in ending HIV transmission. Without access to PrEP, Australia will not achieve its target of ending HIV transmission by 2020.”

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