The Queensland Government has signalled an expansion of the state’s trial of HIV prevention medication PrEP.
Earlier this month QNews reported Victoria had announced an expansion of its PrEP trial to 2600 men who have sex with men. Last December, New South Wales announced a PrEP trial for 3700 men.
But Queensland’s PrEP trial QPrEP, which began last year, has made the medication available to only 150 men at six sites – four Queensland Health Sexual Health Services and two general practices.
Now Queensland Health Minister Cameron Dick has announced the establishment of a PrEP working group involving the government, Queensland AIDS Council (QuAC) and HIV Foundation Queensland to “progress the project’s expansion.”
“We want to work together to grow this number to give even more Queenslanders a chance to benefit from this important medication and prevent the spread of HIV in our state,” he said in a statement on February 12.
“This group will commence work within the next 14 days and I expect them to make recommendations to government regarding an expansion of the project within two months.”
Queensland AIDS Council Executive Director Michael Scott applauded the Queensland Government’s announcement.
“To reach the 2020 goal of zero new HIV notifications, all prevention mechanisms must be embraced, including increased access to PrEP,” he said.
HIV Foundation Queensland chair Dr Darren Russell also welcomed the announcement.
“I congratulate the Palaszczuk Government on seizing this unique opportunity that will enable an historic turning point in the battle to end HIV and look forward to working with the government and Queensland AIDS Council on this important issue,” he said.
PrEP is not currently available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), and a private script currently costs in excess of $10,000 a year.
The cost has driven some Australians without access to a PrEP trial to source generic tablets online from foreign pharmacies at an approximate cost of $1000 per year.
Mr Dick said long-term, equitable access to PrEP remained dependent on its approval by the Therapeutic Goods Administration and listing on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.