The Queensland AIDS Council has called on the Palaszczuk Government to bring PrEP access for Queenslanders into line with the southern states after Victoria this week announced PrEP trial positions for 2,600 men who have sex with men.
The extension of the Victorian PrEP trial follows the lead of News South Wales which announced a PrEP trial for 3700 people on World AIDS Day last December.
Queensland is currently running its own PrEP trial ‘QPrEP’ with places for 150 men who have sex with men across the state – a far cry from its interstate counterparts.
Queensland AIDS Council Executive Director Michael Scott says that if Queensland is serious about reaching its target of of zero new HIV transmissions by 2020, then widespread access to PrEP is vital.
“PrEP works, we know this already”, Mr Scott said. “With no movement at a federal level on PrEP, we must find solutions to make PrEP available at a state level now, not several years into the future” said
“I do not want the situation in 2020 where we knew we had mechanisms to prevent HIV transmission in 2016, but did nothing in Queensland because it was too hard. We need widespread access to PrEP now not only to meet 2020 targets, but because it is morally and ethically responsible to provide every means to reduce HIV transmission to Queenslanders now and in the future,”
As PrEP is not currently available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), a private script currently costs in excess of $10,000 per year. This high price means that most Australians access prep via online orders of generic tablets from Indian and African pharmacies (approximately $1000 per year) or through a place on a PrEP Trial.
The Queensland AIDS Council, who along with the state’s other HIV organisations, currently assists people import prep and says they are “ready, willing and able to be involved in any expanded Queensland trial”.
The AIDS Council’s call for a substantial increase of Queensland’s QPrEP trial is also supported by the HIV Foundation Queensland with the Foundation’s Chair, Dr Darren Russell telling QNews that the foundation has sought additional help from the government.
“Whilst the HIV Foundation Queensland last year allocated $145,000 to increase the Queensland QPrEP trial from 50 to 150 places, we agree that a much larger scale up of PrEP is required if we are to END new HIV transmission by 2020,” Dr Russell said.
“HIV Foundation Queensland has actively sought engagement with the Minister’s Office and Queensland Health regarding the scale up of PrEP and other PrEP initiatives.
“The Foundation fully supports the Queensland AIDS Council’s call for the Queensland State Government to match or improve on the initiatives of NSW & Victoria. With the QPrEP trial already established, a Government funded scale up could be operational in a relatively short period of time for Queensland.”