Vic Funds PrEP Expansion After Federal Government Refuses… Again

With more than 600 Victorians still on waiting list to participate in the PrEPX trial, giving them acces to the life-saving HIV prevention drug Pre-exposure prophylaxis, the Victorian Government called on the Federal Government to take action to ensure a quick listing of PrEP on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

“It is extremely disappointing that once again the Federal Liberal Government are delaying and refusing to take the action required to make this life-saving drug more affordable and accessible for people at risk of HIV,” said Minister for Health Jill Hennessy

“PrEP is critical to achieving our goal of virtual elimination of new HIV infections by 2020 but we can’t do it alone – we need the Federal Government to do their fair share.”

PrEP is a powerful HIV prevention tool, where HIV-negative people take medication every day to almost completely reduce their risk of contracting HIV.

“This level of inequity and inconsistency in PrEP access across the states is shameful and harmful,” said Michael Whelan of community PrEP activist group PrEPaccessNOW. “The Federal Government cannot stand idly by and just hope that this issue will simply fix itself. PrEP works — and federal funding is essential to ensure PrEP access to all Australians.”

The Andrews Labor Government has already provided $1.4 million towards the first Victorian study, PrEPX, with nearly 3,000 people offered access to the life-changing drug. But the Federal Liberals once again passed the buck and refused to provide any funding or support to Victoria and other states and territories in our fight against HIV.

Today they announced that to ensure Victorians who waiting can access this vital drug, they will provide an additional $100,000 to expand the PrEPX trial to clear the waiting list and take the total number of people accessing PrEP to nearly 4,000.

“Our funding boost will mean the hundreds of Victorians waiting to access PrEP won’t have to wait any longer,” Hennessy said.

This boost follows the Victorian Aids Council also announcing an additional $100,000 in January to help clear the waiting list.

“This further commitment from the Andrews Government is an important step, but now we need the Federal Government to take action,” said VAC CEO Simon Ruth.

“The fact that so many are enrolling in the trial shows real motivation by the public to take responsibility their sexual health and the prevention of HIV transmission. At this stage, the Federal Government needs to acknowledge that community demand and demonstrate their commitment to making PrEP accessible and affordable to everyone as quickly as possible.”

This additional funding means that those currently on the waiting list will be able to access PrEP; however, this additional expansion alone will not be enough to stem the need in the community for this powerful HIV prevention method.

The Victorian PrEPX trial has been the fastest enrolled clinical trial of PrEP anywhere in the world, and operates across metropolitan Melbourne and has been expanded regional cities such as Geelong, Ballarat, Wodonga, Bendigo, Shepparton, Moe, Morwell, Mildura and Sale, but right now, half of Australia’s states and territories have no current government supported access to PrEP.

South Australia and Western Australia are due to commence trials in the coming months, while Tasmania and the Northern Territory are without government supported access entirely.

Among the states and territories with trials only the New South Wales trial is currently uncapped. This leaves those seeking PrEP access in Victoria, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory at the mercy of waiting lists that rely on unpredictable and unreliable funding.

PrEP is a way for people who don’t have HIV to prevent infection by taking a pill every day. Evidence shows, when taken consistently, it is 96-98 per cent effective at preventing HIV infection.

If you live in Victoria or South Australia and wish to enrol in the PrEPX trials you can visit the Alfred Health PrEPX website or find out more information about whether PrEP is right for you via PrEP’D For Change and PrEPaccessNOW.