Video plea for PrEP

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22 Apr 2015

As part of the #approvePrEPdownunder campaign — which advocates for the approval of Truvada for use as a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in Australia — the Victorian AIDS Council (VAC) has released an online video. Featuring community leaders living with HIV, the clip delivers the message that if PrEP had been available to them, they would have never acquired HIV.

“Coming from community leaders with lived experiences as HIV-positive spanning over three decades, it’s a moving testament to the fact that if this technology had been available, these people would not be living with HIV today,” said VAC CEO Simon Ruth.

Living Positive Victoria CEO Brent Allan is among those featured in the clip. “This video places PLHIV where they need to be — championing those strategies which we know make a difference in HIV prevention,” he said. “PLHIV have always been central and vital in HIV prevention. Our voices are pivotal in bringing this epidemic to an end.”

Diagnosed HIV-positive in 1984, David Menadue has been a longstanding AIDS activist in Australia. “PrEP will have an increasingly important role as a method to prevent HIV transmission,” said Menadue. “As the science about its safety becomes even clearer, as governments agree to subsidise its cost, and as society appreciates its value (rather than stigmatising those who use it), it will have a profound effect on decreasing the numbers of new diagnoses and helping to end HIV.”

In test after test, PrEP has been found to be highly effective in reducing the risk of acquiring HIV. US health officials have recognised PrEP’s effectiveness and its use was approved three years ago. Despite the science, PrEP has yet to be approved here.

“I hope the message in this video reaches anybody who is, or has the potential to be, affected by HIV,” said VAC board member John Manwaring. “Whether it’s a negative person at risk of contracting it, a healthcare professional sceptical of the merits of PrEP, or a politician unaware of its profound benefits and potential, I hope this video prompts them to pause and think about their role in preventing HIV, and how they can contribute to the end of new transmissions by 2020.”

Melbourne radio personality Dean Beck goes further, with a call to action prompted by his lived experience with HIV. “Whilst my recent positive diagnosis means it is too late for me, it is essential that all men who have sex with men wanting PrEP should have access to it,” said Beck.

In response to community demand, Gilead Sciences, developers of Truvada, will formally apply to the Therapeutic Goods Administration for the drug’s approval as PrEP in June. The evaluation process normally takes 12 months, so an outcome is expected mid-way through next year.

However, community advocates argue that 2016 is too long to wait. “I really hope the government expedites the response to make PrEP available in Australia,” said Ruth. “Clearly someone has the power; it’s just about figuring out who that person is and putting pressure on them to move this along as fast as we can." 

People are invited to sign here to petition federal health minister Sussan Ley to fast-track approval of PrEP.