Thousands Of Men Sign Up For A New HIV Drug Trial In Australia – Health Minister Jillian Skinner Is The One Thousandth Participant

Over 1,000 man have already signed up for a drug trial combating HIV in New South Wales (NSW), Australia. The clinical trial is for the new drug Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) which is a potential game changer in stopping the transmission of HIV. PrEP is supposed to prevent people from contracting the HIV infection, according to ABC News.

The drug trial is being led by University of New South Wales’s Kirby Institute with the support of ACON. ACON President Dr Justin Koonin is thrilled to be involved in the historic project and congratulated NSW Health Minister Skinner on his sign up and on leading Australia’s contemporary response to HIV.

“PrEP is widely acknowledged as a potential game changer in terms of preventing HIV transmission in NSW. NSW is leading the way nationally, with 3,700 EPIC participants to be recruited into the trial. That means that 3,700 people most at risk of acquiring HIV will be protected. The NSW Government is really taking our approach to HIV prevention to the next level,” Koonin said.

“When we combine this with our increasing rates of HIV testing among gay men and stronger uptake of treatment among people living with HIV, we may be able to deliver the biggest reduction in HIV transmission rates in NSW for more than two decades. This is an incredibly exciting possibility for our communities.”

Over 1,000 men have already chosen to sign up for the HIV drug trial, but the Kirby Institute is hoping to recruit more men.

The trial is just looking at men at this stage because 70 percent of HIV transmissions in Australia in 2014 happened between men who had sex with other men, according to the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations.

PrEP is not listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme yet, but Australia is one step closer to the US when it comes to combatting HIV as the Therapeutic Goods Administration recently licensed one brand of the drug, Truvada, on the Scheme.

Professor Sharon Lewin of Melbourne’s Doherty Institute said the more people who sign up to the trial the better, and she hopes the NSW trial will help protect more Australians and stop the spread of new HIV infections.

“The benefits are absolutely huge…In other countries, particularly in the US they’ve demonstrated that as you introduce Truvada for prevention they’ve seen a dramatic reduction in new HIV infections. We still have a thousand new HIV infections a year in Australia and we would be hoping to see a dramatic decrease in that number,” she said.

According to IBTimes, 1,100 men have signed up to the HIV drug trial, but researches are looking to recruit 3,700 men. NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner has signed up, and he is hoping his commitment to end the spread of HIV will encourage other men to sign up for the trial too.

The drug being trialed aims to stop the spread of HIV in an effort to end HIV transmission in Australia by 2020. Plans for this drug trial were first announced on World AIDS Day 2015. The recruit has been building momentum since then, with a main driver being affordability of prevention drugs, according to Gay News Network.

“The big hope is [for] PBS, our funding body, to subsidize these drugs and that could have a very, very significant impact on the epidemic,” Professor Lewin said.

“If you were to buy it as an individual it would cost $800-1000 (AUS) per month, however it is also possible to get these drugs in what we call generic form meaning that they’re made by a different manufacturer and those could be much cheaper, around $2 (AUS) per day.”

Positive Life Acting-CEO Lance Feeney said Positive Life is excited about PrEP and thinks it will empower people at high risk of HIV infection to stay negative, thereby stopping the spread.

“This increased availability of PrEP in the community should begin to release us from anxiety and fear of transmitting or acquiring HIV and advance the goal of the virtual elimination of HIV transmission by 2020,” Feeney said.

The trial is still recruiting men at high risk of HIV, the majority of whom will be gay and bisexual men, for more information or to sign up for the trial, head to the Ending HIV website here.

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