Labor’s $53 million plan to ‘make HIV history’ in Australia

The new plan would give wider access to a highly effective preventative drug named PrEP and deliver it to at-risk communities around Australia. It would also save $2 billion in future public health costs.

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Labor HIV testing drug
Labor's proposed new funding for expanding trials of the PrEP drug aims to defeat HIV in Australia. Photo: Jarun011, Bigstock

Labor’s new plan would give people with a high risk of contracting HIV cheaper access to revolutionary preventative medicine. This 53 million AUD plan aims to help make Australia the first country in the world to defeat HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS.

The plan by Australia’s opposition aims to drastically extend state trials of a drug called PrEP until it is fully approved to receive a governmental subsidy. This move would increase funding to HIV peak bodies and address the rising HIV transmission rates in Indigenous communities around Australia.

The package will be announced by Labor health spokesperson Catherine King. The plan is determined to reduce the number of HIV cases from 1000 a year to nearly 0. This plan is a new election promise from Labor.

Ms King referenced the 1980’s effort by the Labor Hawke government to combat the HIV epidemic and stated that it was time to “renew the effort to make HIV history”.

This plan creates a new blueprint created by the Australian Federations of AIDS Organisations which sated that this 53 million AUD investment will end up saving 2 billion AUD in public health costs.

With this plan PrEP trials will be extended to reach more people in Australia’s states and territories. It will expand the trials to an estimated 17,500 extra people who are considered at risk of contracting HIV.

Individuals in these areas would then only pay 6.30 AUD for the PrEP drug that usually costs 12 AUD.

The PrEP drug, also commonly referred to as Truvada has been considered by Federal health authorities to be included in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. This listing has however been frequently delayed because of high costs considerations.

HIV experts have said that the PrEP antiretroviral drug is immensely popular with homosexual men who are the category of people most likely to contract HIV. They said that if widely introduced the number of HIV diagnoses could be drastically reduced.

The drug is 99% effective at stopping any chance of HIV infection. Gay men who had previously needed to import PrEP from overseas are calling for it to be more widely available through government trials.

With the uncertainty surrounding a listing in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme many in HIV affected communities believe an expanding of government trials is the best, temporary solution.

The new package from Labor would restore 10 million AUD funding the organisations such as the AFAO. It would also commit a further 3 million AUD to reach and treat hidden pockets of HIV such as in Indigenous communities.