Australia has joined a short list of countries to publicly subsidize the HIV prevention treatment, PrEP.
PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a once-daily pill. It has been proven to be 99% effective at stopping the transmission of HIV.
Today (9 February) the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) recommended three different brands of the PrEP medication. be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Schemes (PBS) as a HIV prevention drug. Those brands were Truvada and two generic brands.
The PBS provides a list of subsidized medicines to Australians, so they are more affordable.
Until today the annual cost of the medication was about AU$10,00 (US$7,828) a year. It has been reported that the cost now with a prescription would be about $39.50 ($31).
Across the Tasman Sea, in New Zealand subsidized PrEP will cost about US$1.20 per month.
Many people were either on state based PrEP trials or imported it from overseas either individually or through organizations such as PrEPaccessnow (PAN).
The next step would be for the government to get PrEP listed on the PBS based on PBAC’s recommendation. But the Australia Government has already committed to honouring PBAC’s recommendation in a timely manner.
BREAKING NEWS. PBAC have recommended PrEP be listed on the PBS (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme) which is a step towards making PrEP available nationally at a subsidised price. #PrEP pic.twitter.com/hw8JTbyT5y
— ENDING HIV (@ENDINGHIV) February 9, 2018
$39.50 is not affordable for everyone
While many people are celebrating the news that PrEP will likely be listed on the PBS soon, some are worried not everyone will be able to afford the medication.
Melbourne man, Benjamin Moses, started taking PrEP with the help of PAN after he missed getting on to the state based PrEPX trial in Victoria.
As a student without a full-time job he was not able to afford the cost of PrEP. PAN helped him get the medication for free through its coupons system.
‘PAN made it easier to get my hands on it (PrEP). I’m a student and working casually and money is really tight,’ he told Gay Star News.
Moses was happy with PBAC’s decision but said he would still not be able to afford it.
‘It still is quite pricey, in my current situation it is not affordable,’ he said.
‘It would be great if it was more affordable, my anti-depressants prescription cost me $6.
‘I feel protection for HIV is just as important as my access to anti-depressants, to live as a complete human being.’
After many attempts, success
HIV organizations around Australia welcomed the PBAC decision saying it would help dramatically reduce HIV transmissions.
‘This outcome is the result of tireless advocacy from partners and community organisations in the HIV sector including PrEPaccessNOW and PrEP’d for Change,’ said Living Positive Victoria’s interim CEO Suzy Malhotra.
‘It also shows that health officials understand the importance of PrEP being accessible and the vital impact that it will have on the HIV response in Australia.’
Subsidizing the HIV prevention pill makes financial sense for Australia according to the CEO of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO), Darryl O’Donnell.
‘Making PrEP available and affordable is not only a public health goal, it will also save millions of dollars… A single averted HIV transmission will save the Australian taxpayer $1,000,000 in lifetime costs,’ O’Donnell said.
O’Donnell said it was also important to raise awareness about PrEP to all communities at risk of acquiring HIV.
‘Great effort will be needed to ensure PrEP access and awareness across all parts of the gay community,’ he said.
‘Additionally, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, migrant communities and some heterosexual populations have seen starkly higher rates of HIV transmission over the last five years.
‘While a PBS listing of PrEP is critical, we must make sure everyone who needs PrEP is aware of it and can access it.’