The Australian Government last night handed down its Federal Budget which included AU$180 million (US$134 million) PrEP funding.
The Budget announcement comes weeks after the government added the HIV preventative medication to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). PrEP’s (pre-exposure prophylaxis) addition to the PBS brought the annual cost down from to AU$39.50 (US$30) per month. The cost is even less for recognized low income earners.
The Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) said the funding will ‘drive a sharp reduction in HIV transmission’.
‘The listing of PrEP on the PBS is a game changer for the future trajectory of HIV transmission,’ said AFAO CEO, Darryl O’Donnell, chief executive of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO).
AFAO is currently working with the Department of Health to develop the eighth National HIV Strategy.
O’Donnell said the next HIV strategy offers a huge opportunity to drive HIV transmission to very low levels. The new funding would help build data gathering about HIV.
‘To fulfil this promise we need to leverage the power of big data. Tonight’s announcement of a new e-prescribing system provides the possibility of using anonymous data to build a dynamic, real-time picture of the use of HIV prevention and treatment medicines,’ he said.
The new funding will also help with high rates of HIV infections amongst Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
‘HIV transmission among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians is now double that of non-Indigenous people born in Australia,’ O’Donnell said.
‘The budget’s commitment to expand the skills and experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professional organisations is welcome but dedicated and substantially increased investments to respond to BBVs (blood borne viruses) and STIs (sexually transmitted infections) in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are needed.’
Mental health help
Increased funding to major mental health support organizations will also LGBTI people, according to O’Donnell.
‘Mental distress associated with sexuality, sexual health and the stigma surrounding HIV can be acute. Every extra dollar spent supporting people experiencing mental distress is a dollar well spent,’ he said.
‘Making progress on HIV will require that we are also making progress on intersecting health issues including mental health and alcohol and other drug use.’