HIV/AIDS advocates have welcomed the inclusion of $180 million in last night’s federal budget to fund the HIV prevention medication PrEP.
PrEP, which stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis, is a once-daily pill that has been found to be up to 99% effective at reducing the risk of HIV transmission in HIV-negative people, in conjunction with other safe sex measures.
The Budget announcement comes a month after the government added the drug to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), reducing its cost to AU$39.50 (US$30) per month.
Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) CEO Darryl O’Donnell 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,” he said.
“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.
AFAO is currently working with the federal Department of Health to develop the eighth National HIV Strategy.
O’Donnell said the new funding will also address high rates of HIV infections among 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.”
O’Donnell also welcomed the additional funding committed to Lifeline, Beyondblue and SANE Australia for mental health and suicide prevention.
“Mental distress associated with sexuality, sexual health and the stigma surrounding HIV can be acute,” he said.
“Every extra dollar spent supporting people experiencing mental distress is a dollar well spent.
“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.”