This is news that I am truly excited about.
As of the 1st of April, PrEP (or Pre Exposure Prophylaxis) is now available on the PBS for the prevention of HIV infections in people that are medium to high risk.
This means that there is now a safe, easily accessible and affordable medication that can be dispensed at any pharmacy (and more and more will start stocking it), and if taken daily is shown to be 99% effective at preventing infection.
Does this mean I can get PrEP from any doctor?
Well, yes! That’s the entire point of PrEP. However some doctors might not yet be familiar with the intracacies of prescribing PrEP and what to monitor for, though there are excellent guidelines being published. If you were already getting PrEP through a doctor familiar with sexual health and HIV, or if you were enrolled in the EPIC trial I suggest continuing your treatment with the same doctor and service.
I’ve never used PrEP before but I’m interested, what do I do?
If you think you might be at higher risk of contracting HIV, then it’s best to come in and chat with a doctor that is experienced in prescribing PrEP.
We’ll go through your risk factors, discuss how to take it and what side effects might be expected, and monitor for these.
Before commencing PrEP we need to make sure you don’t have a HIV infection, so a test will need to be done and the results reviewed before a prescription can be issued. We also need to perform a full STI screen, and check your kidney function.
At GS Health, once the test results are back we give a 1 month prescription, and repeat the HIV test and Kidney function test at the end of the month. Then we catch up with you to make sure everything is going smoothly and that any initial side effects are tolerable and improving. At this visit we give a prescription for a further 2
PrEP is on PBS Authority (meaning strict rules about prescribing) for the prevention of HIV. As such a negative HIV test result is required for a prescription. So at each 3 monthly visit we’ll perform the same blood tests, and appropriate STI screening to make sure you’re staying healthy, and we get on top of any asymptomatic infections that might pop up. If you fall outside the medium to high risk population and become low risk, then the side effects of PrEP will outweigh any benefits and we might pause it, until the risk profile changes.
Who is eligible for PrEP on the PBS?
You have to have a valid medicare card, and you have to be at medium to high risk of acquiring a HIV infection. There are several groups of people, but if you think you might be it’s best to have a chat with your doctor.
If you do not have a medicare card (overseas traveller, working holiday, student visa), it is still possible to go on PrEP. We can either provide a private prescription that can be collected from a local pharmacy, or we order from an overseas pharmacy (which will end up being similar in price to obtaining it with Medicare).
If you have any more questions about PrEP please head over to the PrEP page.