NSW Health says the addition of the HIV prevention pill, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme will boost NSW’s efforts to eliminate HIV transmission by 2020.
From the 1st of April, people who are at high-risk of HIV infection will be able to purchase PrEP at an affordable price from community pharmacies. The cost of the antiretroviral drug will drop from $2,500 a year to less than $40 per month and is expected to benefit more than 30,000 patients a year – a third of whom live in NSW.
NSW Health Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said the subsidy, together with the NSW Government’s continued investment in extra HIV prevention strategies, could end HIV infections altogether.
“NSW recorded the lowest-ever rate of new HIV cases last year and a major factor was the rapid uptake of PrEP in combination with high testing rates and early treatment, supported by government, researchers, doctors and nurses and affected communities,” Dr Chant said.
“Already more than 9,000 gay and bisexual men across the state are participating in our PrEP trial and as the numbers have steadily increased, we have seen an unprecedented decline in HIV notifications.”
PrEp is considered to be about 99 per cent effective in reducing HIV transmissions. NSW Health continues to promote the use of PrEP in addition to the use of condoms, regular testing for HIV and early access to HIV treatment.
In 2017-18 the NSW Government is investing more than $20 million in services to strengthen HIV testing, treatment and prevention.
Manager of Blood Borne Virus and STI Surveillance in the Communicable Diseases Branch, Dr Christine Selvey said the move to publicly subsidise PrEP will make it easily accessible to people across NSW.
“The announcement from the Commonwealth will now allow GPs to prescribe the drug and it will be available at community pharmacies.”
NSW Health, in conjunction with its partners such as the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and ASHM, is rolling out resources to assist GPs to prescribe PrEP to those at risk of HIV infection, to make PrEP access quick and easy.
For information on PrEP people in NSW can call the NSW Sexual Health Infolink on 1800 451 624.