Pre Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a prevention strategy where an HIV negative person takes treatment before exposure to HIV.
This is a whole new approach to HIV prevention, as HIV transmission could be substantially reduced if HIV negative persons most at risk of acquiring HIV are offered PrEP to prevent becoming HIV positive. PrEP is therefore a further prevention strategy for people undertaking high risk behaviour to use in combination with already existing prevention strategies and provides another option for a HIV negative person to protect themselves. However, the most important thing to remember about PrEP is adherence; PrEP will not work as well if you don’t take it as prescribed.
How does PrEP work?
It works by having an impact on the virus’ ability to establish itself in the body, and therefore greatly lowers the possibility of a HIV negative person becoming HIV positive. 3 major research trials have recently shown that PrEP is 86% effective at preventing HIV, but continued research over the past 5 years strongly indicates that PrEP is nearly 100% effective is taken daily.
What’s the difference between PEP and PrEP?
PEP is a HIV treatment taken within 72 hours after exposure to HIV to prevent it from establishing itself in the body, whereas PrEP is a HIV treatment taken before and after exposure.
PrEP highlights the really exciting advances made in HIV prevention because for the first time ever, a HIV negative person now has a biomedical treatment option to prevent transmission and feel more comfortable taking control of their own health.
Is PrEP available in Australia?
In May 2016, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has registered the drug Truvada for PrEP in Australia, now indicated for the sexual prevention of HIV among HIV-negative people (as well as part of HIV treatment among HIV-positive people). In a historic decision, Truvada has recently been recommended be listed at a subsidised co-payment through Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). The date for actual access through the PBS (as known as the listing date) is yet to be announced.
What are the options for obtaining PrEP?
If you are considering PrEP, you should discuss this with a doctor with experience in HIV or sexual health to help decide if PrEP is right for you.
There are a few options for you to access PrEP now. They are:
Your doctor can write a prescription for Truvada, and you can purchase it at the full cost of approximately $10,000 – $13,500 for a year’s supply of Truvada. However, this cost will be too expensive for most people, but it is an option. However, it is expected after Truvada is listed on the PBS, this cost will fall substantially to approximately $39.50 per script for people with access to Medicare; the cost of off label Truvada after PBS listing is unknown but may be less than what it is currently.
With your doctor’s prescription, you can purchase a generic version of Truvada from a reliable overseas supplier and import it to Australia. Generics are copies of brand-name drugs and work just as well. The cost of generic Truvada is much less than the brand-name and would be approximately $10/week, which may be a more affordable option. For more information on how to order PrEP online visit www.pan.org.au
Queensland, New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania are running PrEP trial projects. On 07 November 2016, the Queensland Minister for Health – The Honourable Cameron Dick – announced the commencement of the Queensland PrEP study – QPrEPd. The study has provided PrEP for up to 2000 Queenslanders, and has recently expanded with 1000 additional spots. This marks a significant milestone for Queensland to expand HIV prevention services. The trial is an initiative of the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service, Queensland Health, University of Queensland (UQ School of Public Health), and the Queensland AIDS Council (QuAC), and involves 21 study locations throughout Queensland. All sites are currently recruiting. People interested in participating in this study, including Medicare ineligible candidates, should contact your local clinic directly to enquire about availability of appointments as well as their billing practices (Bulk Billing or fee). While the medication for QPrEPd participants will be free, some clinics do charge private fees for consultations. Further info: http://www.comeprepd.info/qprepd-project/
Please contact QPP if you would like any further info, you can speak to our team toll free from a land-line on 1800 636 241, use the contact form provided or call (07) 3013 5555 (nationally).