Be PrEPared to travel for HIV prevention drug

FRASER Coast may have missed out on a ground-breaking trial of an HIV prevention drug, but high-risk residents can still take part if they are willing to travel to the Sunshine Coast

Just six Queensland regions were selected for the latest trials of the pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) drug Truvada.

Truvada is available by prescription in Australia but because it is not on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme it costs about $10,000 a year.

However, it can be imported for about $1300 a year.

Two PrEP trials will be held in Brisbane and one each in Cairns, Townsville and on the Gold and Sunshine coasts.

Plans for Ipswich to take part have been shelved.

Pharmaceutical company Gilead has agreed to fund 50 places across the state and the HIV Foundation Queensland will pay the costs of 100 more.

Participants will receive a daily dose of the drug for free and will need to have regular health checks at the trial site.

Anyone in Queensland can apply to take part in the research trials but they will need to meet strict criteria.

Preference will be given to men who have had unsafe sex with men over the past 12 months.

Gilead Australia public affairs associate director Stephen Head said the company hoped to win Therapeutic Goods Administration approval for the drug next year.

This approval should lead to the drug being added to the PBS.

Mr Head said the drug was an important tool in reducing HIV notifications.

"Gilead is committed to developing strategies that prevent the transmission of HIV and continues to support ongoing research to evaluate the effectiveness of Truvada for PrEP in real-world settings, including support for three demonstration projects which are currently underway in NSW, Queensland and Victoria," he said.

American medical researcher Bob Grant said PrEP was having a huge impact in his native San Francisco.

He said that city recorded a 30% decrease in HIV transmissions over the past three years thanks to the drug.

"PrEP is safe and effective and demand is rolling out in the United States," Professor Grant said.

For information on HIV prevention visit http://www.endhiv.org.au.

- APN NEWSDESK



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