PrEP Decision Hits Hard in WA
PrEP Decision a Setback in Eliminating HIV in WA
The WA AIDS Council is disappointed in the decision of the Pharmaceutical Advisory Committee (PBAC) not to recommend the funding of Truvada™ for use as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
Truvada™ taken once a day has been proven extremely effective in preventing HIV transmission. It was approved for use by the Therapeutic Goods Administration in May 2016. Already, Queensland, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria have announced and implemented large scale PrEP programs funded by their respective governments.
In Western Australia no such program exists, and hopes were resting on a positive PBAC decision to at least partially address the disadvantage that Western Australians vulnerable to HIV are experiencing relative to their East Coast peers.
WA AIDS Council Chairperson Sam Hastings said today that this decision was a significant setback in achieving the virtual elimination of HIV by 2020. “Both our State and Federal Governments are committed to this goal, and PrEP is the most effective development in prevention we’ve seen in many years. That’s why other state governments are investing so heavily in making sure that as many people who both need and want PrEP can get it – our Government must consider doing the same.” he said.
New diagnoses of HIV remain stubbornly high in Western Australia at more than 100 per year, and gay and bisexual men account for over two thirds of this total. PrEP is considered vital for Australians at very high risk of HIV infection.
Despite this setback, Mr. Hastings is keen to point out that it is possible to get PrEP prescribed locally, however the high cost is an insurmountable barrier for many. “Our Government led the country in establishing an operational directive that encourages doctors to prescribe PrEP to those most at risk, but the cost and complexities of private importation are challenging” He said. He went on to say that the WA AIDS Council is working hard to make PrEP more accessible, but without political leadership and resources, results are limited.
“Our Government must talk to its counterparts in the Eastern States and negotiate participation of Western Australians in established PrEP Access programs. The ACT Government did this, and we should be doing the same” he concluded.
For media comment, please contact:
Sam Hastings, Chairperson WA AIDS Council 0433 144 105
Andrew Burry, CEO WA AIDS Council 0433 547 640
For comment on the national implications of this decision, please contact:
Bridget Haire, President Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations 0439 074 526
Let your voice be heard!
Membership of the WA AIDS Council gives you the opportunity to shape the future of the organisation.
Membership gives you voting rights and the knowledge that you are contributing to the HIV response in WA.
To join, simply download, print, complete and return the following form.
Please return this form to the WA AIDS Council, Reply Paid 1510, West Perth, WA 6872 or fax to 08-9482 0001. A receipt will be issued and mailed.
Please note: Where applicants are applying for a new membership and are unable to obtain a proposer and seconder, the applicant is required to provide a brief statement outlining the reasons for wanting to be admitted as a member. The Board will consider the reasons and the application may be proposed and seconded by Board members when membership status is considered at the next Board meeting.
*UPDATE - November 2017 - PrEP Trial now underway.
Most HIV transmissions occur among gay men and other men who have sex with men in Australia. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is expected to make a substantial difference to the epidemic and is another strategy that can be employed to reduce risk of HIV infection.
So what is PrEP and how effective is it?
PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a type of medication called Truvada that is already used in Australia to treat HIV. Truvada has been shown to be extremely effective as PrEP at reducing HIV transmission among men who have sex with men.
It is TGA approved?
Recently, the decision was made by the Pharmaceutical Advisory Committee (PBAC) to not recommend the funding of Truvada™ for use as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Although this is disappointing news, there are still ways of accessing PrEP. Currently, people can access the medication through clinical trials or by personally importing generic versions of the medication.
What’s an off-Label prescription?
In the absence of readily available Truvada for PrEP in WA, many guys are choosing to purchase it from overseas. This is easily done once you have a prescription provided by a doctor where they request the drug “off-label” i.e. for a use that the TGA doesn’t currently approve it for.
How do I get a PrEP prescription?
There are three places in Perth you can go to obtain a PrEP prescription:
How often do I take PrEP?
Adherence (how often you take your meds), is a massive factor in how effective the pill is. The current recommendation is to take PrEP daily – any less and you may not be protected.
Are there side-effects? I’ve heard there’s side effects!
Tenofovir, one of the drugs used in Truvada, has been linked to a number of common temporary side effects including vomiting and diarrhoea and in rare cases acute kidney damage. Getting a prescription from a doctor that is knowledgeable about PrEP is paramount in ensuring you are provided with the right precautions, maintain a steady supply of Truvada and undergo important monitoring for kidney dysfunction. If you are HIV positive without knowing, and were to commence PrEP assuming you were negative, you run the risk of developing resistance to drugs used in Truvada which could limit your HIV treatment options. This is why HIV testing prior to commencing PrEP is so important.
What about other STIs?
Condoms are still a big part of preventing HIV infection, as well as other STIs such as gonorrhoea and syphilis (which PrEP can’t protect you against). If you are having sex without condoms you must remember to have a sexual health screen every three to six months.
If you think PrEP would work for you, it’s easier to get than you think, and doesn’t cost as much as you would expect.
PrEP Access Now: https://www.prep.global/get-prep
PrEP'd For Change: Public facebook page
Are you a FIFO worker?
Do you know someone who is?
Quick & Dirty - The FIFO Sex Survey aims to gain an insight into Fly In Fly Out (FIFO) workers' sexual health and relationship behaviour. The survey aims to explore the needs and wants of the FIFO community regarding their access to sexual health and relationship resources.
Overseas aquired transmissions of HIV among locally born Australians has been a recognised trend for a number of years and the WA AIDS Council is committed to reducing these figures. This survey will help to generate effective communications for West Australians who work in the FIFO industry, and together we can stop this trend.
To fill in the survey, please click and share the following link:
All completed surveys will be entered into a draw to win one of three $300 vouchers for Bunning, JB Hifi or BCF.
Funded by the Australian Health Promotion Association Scholarship Grant.
We, the WA AIDS Council, wish to express our support for marriage equality. We absolutely recognise the rights of our lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans* and intersex clients, members and volunteers to live a full and healthy life that is not shadowed by any prejudice or discrimination, or a life that is absent all of the rights accorded to others. This includes the right to marry the person of their choice.
We have always understood that discrimination impacts on our health in many ways. We understand that lack of access to financial benefits and other entitlements, given as a right to heterosexual families, does not improve wellbeing.
The lack of full and equal recognition of our relationships is a bigger issue. For as long as this inequality exists, there will continue to be a strong government sponsored message that our relationships, in whatever form they may appear, are not as valued as others. This is unacceptable.
All evidence shows that the community strongly supports marriage equality. This is unsurprising since for every lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans* and intersex person, there are parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, workmates, friends and neighbours. Thus the community bears witness to the impacts of inequality that our political leaders are reluctant to acknowledge.
It is time for our great country to join the more than 20 others that have already embraced equality for marriage and the social benefits that have followed.
For those that think that there is a viable alternative to full equality, there isn’t. Near enough will never be good enough when it comes to human rights.