• Bottles of antiretroviral 'PrEP' drug Truvada. (Getty Images North America)
A fourth person taking the HIV-prevention pill PrEP has contracted HIV in an Australian trial.
By
Ben Winsor

24 May 2017 - 10:20 AM  UPDATED 24 May 2017 - 10:20 AM

Researchers in Victoria have confirmed that a person enrolled in the state government sponsored PrEPX study has tested positive for HIV.

It’s the first reported case in Australia where a person taking the daily HIV prevention pill has contacted the virus – and thought to be only the fourth case worldwide.  

The Victorian Aids Council has said there are two ways this could have happened, either the individual was not taking the prescribed dose daily, or the person was exposed to a drug-resistant form of the virus.

Encountering a partner with a detectable viral load who also has a drug-resistant strain of HIV is “extremely rare”, the organisation said.

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Victorian Aids Council CEO Simon Ruth stressed that the drug was still effective for the vast majority of over 100,000 people taking the blue pill globally.

“There have been no reported occurrences of widespread PrEP failure here or around the world where in many locations PrEP is approved and subsidised,” Mr Ruth said.

“The vast majority of people taking PrEP in this country and around the world continue to be protected by this powerful HIV prevention tool.”

Those enrolled in the study undergo STD testing every three months.

Researchers have said it’s important that people participating in the study continue to take their medication regularly.

“If concerned, participants should talk directly to the doctor or nurse monitoring them throughout the trial,” said lead researcher, Associate Professor Edwina Wright.

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Professor Wright said researchers were reviewing the details of the case, but stressed there was no confirmed case in Australia of a person on PrEP contracting a drug-resistant form of the virus.

When taken daily, PrEP can reduce HIV transmissions by over 99 per cent – with researchers in NSW seeing significant drops in HIV transmission rates as early data from the trial rolls in.

At the same time, researchers have said they won’t be surprised if other STDs spike in the gay community, as people feel more comfortable doing away with condoms.

PrEP only protects individuals from HIV, not far more common STDs such as Chlamydia, Syphilis and Gonorrhea.

“It is important that gay men and all people at risk of HIV infection consider and decide on the best way to protect themselves from the range of safe sex options available to them,” Simon Ruth said.

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Comment: How PrEP changed my life
"The reality is that gay men don’t use condoms one hundred percent of the time. Breakages happen, people get drunk, and some simply prefer not to use them. Those are people we need to support, not shame," writes Brandon Cook.

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