• Truvada. (Astrid Riecken/MCT via Getty Images) (McClatchy-Tribune)
Days after the New Zealand government announced plans to subsidise HIV prevention drug PrEP, Australia is set to include the medication on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
Samuel Leighton-Dore

8 Feb 2018 - 12:22 PM  UPDATED 8 Feb 2018 - 12:22 PM

Days after the New Zealand government announced plans to subsidise the HIV prevention drug, PrEP, Australia is set to follow suit, including the medication on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

Fairfax reports that the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, which advises the government on which drugs should be listed and publicly subsidised, is set to recommend the drug with the support of federal health minister, Greg Hunt.

The drug, commercial name Truvada, is considered to be 99% effective at preventing new HIV diagnoses and can currently cost up to $10,000 a year. However, the PBS listing is expected to bring the price down to below $500 a year, making it far more accessible to thousands of Australians.

Comment: How PrEP changed my life
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Nic Holas, the co-founder of The Institute of Many (TIM), Australia’s largest grassroots movement for people living with HIV, said he’d welcome the “almost certain” announcement from PBAC.

“PrEP is a necessary and urgent tool, and one of a new array of options in the fight to end HIV,” Holas said in a statement this morning. “We have long said that until PrEP is fully accessible, it will not be fully effective. We have already seen in some jurisdictions how PrEP, in combination with other prevention methods, testing strategies, and meaningful community engagement, has helped to reduce instances of HIV transmission. Now, we hope to see the same effect across the country, and beyond just the community of gay and bisexual men affected by HIV.”

Holas continued: “For too long, people living with HIV have born the brunt of expectation, responsibility, and blame when it comes to keeping the community safe from HIV. PrEP offers HIV negative people the opportunity to take more responsibility for their own safety.”

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A fourth person taking the HIV-prevention pill PrEP has contracted HIV in an Australian trial.

“With PrEP available and more people aware of and embracing U=U (Undetectable = Untransmittable), we hope this is the beginning of the end for new HIV transmissions in Australia, but we know this is not the end of HIV stigma and discrimination,” Holas added.

“In acknowledging today’s welcome and excellent news, we also acknowledge the long history of HIV and AIDS in Australia and elsewhere. PrEP would not be possible with people living with HIV putting their bodies on the line.”

The move comes following an extensive series of successful trials around the country.