For Ray Goodlass, the news that the HIV drug PrEP is to be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme is bittersweet.
“It’s very good news that it has finally happened. The feedback I'm getting is that it is very welcome,” the Wagga activist said.
Mr Goodlass said that while PrEP is proving to be effective at stopping the transmission of HIV, it has come too late for the many people who contracted illness and died before the medication was developed.
“It would have been useful much earlier,” he said.
But, Mr Goodlass said, the drug “really is life-saving” and the feedback he is receiving from the Wagga gay community is positive.
PrEP – or Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis – is taken by people who are not HIV positive, but considered to be at high risk of infection.
Mr Goodlass said many felt a PBS-listing for PrEP was long overdue.
Alison Kincaid, a clinical nurse consultant in sexual health for the Murrumbidgee Local Health District, said a successful PBS listing for PrEP was “excellent”.
Ms Kincaid said NSW Health has a strategy of ending HIV by 2020 and part of this is an increase in testing for people at risk of HIV.
“Also, new treatments mean people who we know are HIV positive can get to the stage where they have an undetectable viral load,” Ms Kincaid said.
A NSW study called Opposites Attract and carried out by the Kirby Institute, showed that people whose HIV has reached the stage of undetectable viral load do not transmit the virus.
However, she said while PrEP was effective on HIV prevention, it did not stop the spread of other sexually transmitted infections.
“The message from us is about being safe and always using condoms,” Ms Kincaid said.
“We are seeing an increase in chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhea.
“The best ways of staying safe are to use condoms and get tested regularly.
“If people are choosing not to use condoms, regular screening for infection should allow for earlier treatment.
“People take risks. We probably still don’t talk about it as often as we should.”