PrEP (Pre Exposure Prophylaxis) is the use of medication by people who are HIV negative to prevent the transmission of HIV. In Australia, people can use Truvada, or generics as PrEP, with PrEP shown to be very effective at preventing HIV transmission.
PrEP is for people who are HIV negative, but are at risk of HIV transmission. Whilst the level of risk differs for each person, the people at the highest risk of transmission include gay men and men who have sex with men, transgender people and people who inject drugs. People can also be at risk if any of their sexual partners are injecting drug users, or men who have sex with men.
Factors affecting the risk of HIV transmission vary and include:
- Whether, or how frequently you use condoms and lubricant
- Whether you know the HIV status of your sexual partners (and whether they know their status as well)
- Whether your HIV positive partners have an undetectable viral load
- The number of sexual partners you have
- The types of sexual contact you have (anal, vaginal, oral, masturbation)
- If you are a gay man or man who has sex with men – whether you are a top, bottom, or versatile
- If you inject drugs, whether you share injecting equipment
- Whether you use recreational drugs, and if so how often
Importantly, people using PrEP are encouraged to be tested for HIV and STIs every three months. This is a requirement of the current Queensland QPrEPd study, and is an important step to maintaining sexual health. Whilst PrEP will provide protection from HIV, it will not provide protection from other STIs – hence regular (3 month) testing is important.
There are very few side effects for taking PrEP. There are no known long term side effects from taking Truvada (or generic) as PrEP. In a small number of people, there may be a loss of bone mineral density or a decrease in kidney function. Some people report experiencing headaches or nausea, but these side effects disappear within a few weeks of starting PrEP.
PrEP and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS)
On February 9 2018, Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) has recommended that PrEP be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) by the Australian Government. The date for actual access through the PBS (known as the listing date) has not been announced. You will be able to access PrEP through the Australian healthcare system from the listing date. We understand that the listing date will be in the first half of the 2018 calendar year. For more information about what PrEP access through the PBS means for you, download this fact-sheet.
In the meantime, whilst PrEP will not be available through the PBS immediately, we urge people not to put off accessing PrEP now. Anyone considering accessing PrEP now should not wait for a PBS listing date, as PrEP is free and accessible through the current QPrEPD Study. See below for more information about the QPrEPd Study.
The QPrEPd Study
The QPrEPd study is offering PrEP to 3000 people across Queensland who are at high risk of acquiring HIV. You can enrol in the study by contacting one of the clinics directly.
QuAC’s #ComePrepd campaign was designed to answer a lot of the questions people might have around PrEP. By sharing real stories and sexual experiences, it was designed to enable people to make up their own mind as to whether PrEP is right for them. The website can be found at http://www.comeprepd.info/