Health

HIV Drug PrEP to Be Publicly Subsidised In Australia

It'll go from $10,000 a year to just a few hundred dollars.

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) is set to include Truvada/PrEP, the breakthrough HIV prevention drug, Fairfax is reporting. Federal subsidy would see the drug become dramatically cheaper and accessible for the everyday Australians at risk of contracting the virus. The announcement is due this Friday afternoon, according to Fairfax. Unlisted, the drug costs users around $10,000 a year. This move would reduce that down to just a few hundred dollars a year for tens of thousands of Australians.

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Australia will follow New Zealand, which became one of the first countries in the world to publicly fund PrEP this week. The drug will be subsidised from March 1. According to UK organisation Aids Map, Truvada (more commonly known as PrEP) works in a similar way to antimalarial tablets: "Somebody who does not have HIV takes enough antiretrovirals (ARVs) for there to be high levels of the drugs in their bloodstream, genital tract and rectum before any exposure to HIV. If exposure occurs, the ARVs stop the virus from entering cells and replicating. This prevents HIV from establishing itself and the person remains HIV negative."

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CVC), daily PrEP usage reduces the risk of contracting HIV from sex by more than 90 percent. Among people who inject drugs, it reduces the risk by more than 70 percent. PrEP can cause minimal side effects like nausea in some people, but these generally ease over time and no serious side effects have been reported so far. At the end of 2015, an estimated 25,313 people were living with HIV in Australia, as per the Kirby Institute’s 2016 Annual Surveillance Report. Among those people, it's thought around 10 percent didn't know they were were HIV-positive.

In Australia, HIV transmission occurs primarily through sexual contact between men. The risk of getting HIV from sex is even lower when PrEP users also use condoms.