HIV drug PrEP will be added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), slashing the cost of a script dramatically. It marks the success of a long-term campaign for HIV activists and support groups, who have been working towards making the drug more accessible for years.

While the tax subsidy was approved last month, today health minister Greg Hunt outlined the $180 million subsidy in detail, saying that it “puts Australia in reach of being one of the first countries in the world to end the transmission of HIV”.

Whereas previously patients would pay up $208 per monthly script for PrEP ($2496 per year), the subsidy reduced the cost to $39.50 per script ($474 a year, by my maths).

Cost meant that previously, many were restricted to availability in state trials of the drug in NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland.

PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis) is considered one of the keys to eradicating HIV. Known as Truvada in the US, the drug reduces the anti-viral load in those who may be at risk of contracting HIV. The preventative drug is recommended to be used with a condom, so please don’t treat it as a catch-all.

“PrEP is a medical innovation that will save Australian lives and the decision to list it is one of the most significant advancements in HIV transmission Australia has ever seen,” Greg said.

While PrEP and HIV eradication is widely considered an issue for men who have sex with men, Greg notes that the subsidy will fight HIV growth across many vulnerable communities. At the moment, it’s believed there’s approximately 35,000 Australians living with HIV, with about 10% of those not realising.

“Access to PrEP will not only benefit gay and bisexual men but will also drive down rates of HIV in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, migrant communities and other population groups which have seen increased transmission rates over recent years.”

The subsidy will come into effect April 1.

Source: The ABC

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