The President of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations has today slammed the current limited availability of Pre-exposure prophylaxis(PrEP) in Australia and believes this is the main reason that HIV infections will not decline.
In her opening remarks to the Australasian HIV & AIDS Conference and in front of delegates from the World STI Congress in Brisbane, Bridget Haire said the advancement of PrEP is a sad story in Australia.
“Gay men who are of high risk of HIV need PrEP and they must have PrEP as an option,” Haire explained.
“Currently we have less than 600 places across the country available for implementation studies and its not really distributed across the country.
PrEP is an antiretroviral pill taken daily by people who are HIV negative, can only be imported for personal use or prescribed by a small amount of Australian doctors.
“Those 600 places are limited to three states, it’s not enough, its not equitable, and now this situation exists, HIV infections in Australia will not decline.”
Bridget Haire is a post-doctoral research fellow at the Kirby Institute, University of NSW where she studies ethical aspects of infectious diseases and her research includes PrEP.
These comments were made following a crowded PrEP forum which was held at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre last night.
The PrEP forum was conducted by the HIV Foundation Queensland and included Professor Bob Grant from San Francisco, one of the pioneers of PrEP studies in the World.
Continuing on her attack, Ms Haire claimed the reason for the lack of available PrEP was due to approval and that Australian Governments needed to do more.
“Prep access needs to be fast tracked through the Therapeutic Goods Administration(TGA) and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and if we don’t have a mechanism for that we need to invent one,” Haire said.
“In the meantime State Governments need to consider how they can facilitate access in their jurisdictions.”
The Queensland Minister for Health Cameron Dick opened the conference and explained he had a meeting with Professor Grant yesterday and thanked him for the interesting discussion about prep and other interventions.
“In this state we are improving access to pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis to prevent HIV,” Mr Dick said.
“We are making rapid HIV testing easier and more accessible than ever before.”