Health minister Greg Hunt has recommitted to listing PrEP on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee has recommended that the HIV prevention pill, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
In its decision published late on Friday, the committee found that PrEP provides "a significant reduction in the risk of sexually-acquired HIV" in combination with other safe-sex practices compared to safe-sex practices alone, and is cost-effective to be listed on the PBS.
PrEP has been proven to be 99% effective in preventing HIV transmission.
The PBAC approval clears the way for health minister Hunt to list the drug and make it available at a much lower price. Until now, people wishing to take PrEP were either taking part in trials of the drug across Australia, or were importing a generic version of the drug for sometimes more than $100 per month, but the full commercial cost can be around $5,000 per year.
A spokesperson for Hunt told BuzzFeed News on Monday that Hunt made a commitment last year to fund PrEP if PBAC recommended it, and the government funded all drugs recommended by PBAC.
"Unlike Labor, we are funding all drugs recommended by PBAC. This was not the approach taken by Labor. They delayed the listing of seven vital drugs," the spokesperson said.
"Since coming into government, the Coalition has helped improve the health of Australians by subsidising more than $8.1 billion worth of new medicines.”
The listing on the PBS could bring the cost down to as low as $39 per month, or $6.50 for those with concession cards.
The Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations welcomed the decision. CEO Darryl O'Donnell said in a statement that the government needed coordinated leadership and resources to end HIV transmission in Australia.
"Gay and bisexual men continue to carry the greatest burden of HIV in Australia, and we expect that PrEP will sharply drive down rates of HIV for this community," he said. "But great effort will be needed to ensure PrEP access and awareness across all parts of the gay community.
"Additionally, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, migrant communities and some heterosexual populations have seen starkly higher rates of HIV transmission over the last five years.
"While a PBS listing of PrEP is critical, we must make sure everyone who needs PrEP is aware of it and can access it."
There are thousands of people on PrEP trials across the country, including over 8,000 people in New South Wales. AIDS Council of NSW (ACON) CEO Nicolas Parkhill said those on trials should keep taking and accessing PrEP the usual way for now.
"More information will be available in the coming weeks and months, and you will receive communication about any changes soon," Parkhill said.
Josh Taylor is a Senior Reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.
Contact Josh Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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