With HIV drug cheaper to access, getting tested still priority

April 03, 2018

Goulburn Valley Health sexual health nurse practitioner Suzanne Wallis has welcomed moves to improve access to HIV treatment medication, but says emphasis remains on people getting tested.

The HIV prevention drug PrEP has been listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, months after a Goulburn Valley sexual health nurse practitioner said a regional trial had resulted in a promising uptake.

The Federal Government is taking ‘‘a critical step in helping end the transmission of HIV’’ with the PBS listing of key medicine from Sunday.

Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy said the PBS listing would significantly improve access to the drug by making it more affordable.

She described the drug as a game-changer for HIV prevention efforts and critical to achieving the goal of eliminating new HIV infections by 2020.

‘‘This is a great — albeit long overdue — win that makes this ground-breaking drug more affordable and accessible through local GPs,’’ she said.

Suzanne Wallis, a sexual health nurse practitioner at Goulburn Valley Health, recently welcomed moves to improve access to HIV treatment medication, but said emphasis still needed to be on people getting tested.

She said improving attitudes to testing remained the priority, to make sure those affected could receive prompt treatment, adding the stigma around being tested for HIV lingered and being in a smaller regional area created its own set of barriers.

‘‘So we need more testing, but we also need more access to (medication),’’ Ms Wallis said.

Victorian AIDS Council president Chad Hughes welcomed the PBS listing of PrEP after years of advocacy.

‘‘We believe this breakthrough tool for HIV prevention should be accessible to everyone who needs it,’’ he said.

Shepparton has been part of a medical trial aiming to cut the rate of new HIV transmissions across Victoria.

The PrEPX trial started last year in Melbourne and tracks users of new drug Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and its effects on HIV rates.

Ms Wallis said there had been demand and added an advantage of the trial was that regular testing followed.

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