Calls for better access to PrEP for women
Following extensive consultation with women living with HIV, the Victorian AIDS Council (VAC) , Living Positive Victoria and the Burnet Institute, Positive Women Victoria (PWV) is calling for better resources and access to PrEP (Pre-exposure Prophylaxis) for women.
PWV believe that better resources must be developed for women outlining the benefits and availability of different prevention methods for limiting the transmission of HIV.
“Despite comprehensive clinical guidelines being published by ASHM in 2015, there are few resources that specifically detail the potential use of PrEP in plain language both for women living with HIV and HIV-negative women,” Executive Officer of Positive Women Victoria, Alison Boughey says. “Without these, we risk leaving women behind in the discussion of powerful new methods of prevention.”
Boughey suggests women living with HIV need to better understand the role and benefits PrEP can play in their sexual health if they are in a sero-discordant relationship and how it can also be used as treatment as prevention (TaSP) if their partner is HIV positive.
PWV’s statement suggests that while PrEP does not diminish the importance of other preventative measures including correct and consistent condom use, safe injecting practices and TaSP; it is a welcome development to provide more flexibility and choice for women’s free and safe sexual expression.
Living Positive Victoria’s CEO Brent Allen agreed but said there was still a major challenge in women gaining access to PrEP.
“We have seen the progress of PrEP in different population groups and those successes also need to be available to women affected by HIV,” he said.
With PrEP currently only available to women via the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s Personal Importation Scheme (at significant cost), or through clinical trials such as Alfred Health’s PrEPX study, access to the life-saving drug is limited.
Associate Professor Edwina Wright, who assisted with the formulation of Positive Women Victoria’s statement, emphasized the importance of the PrEPX trial for women: “The PrEPX Study provides an opportunity for women or their partners who are at risk of HIV infection in Victoria to access PrEP,” she said.
PWV’s statement says it supports PrEP and is “determined that clear information about its potential use and benefits are made available in concert with a greater availability of the medication for Australian women and their partners as early as possible. Positive Women Victoria also notes a lack of clear guidelines on the benefits of PrEP for transgender women in Australia and calls for parties interested in forming a position statement specific to transgender women to get in contact.”
“Positive Women Victoria has an inclusive vision for all women and girls living with HIV to be free from stigma and supported in their unique journey. This means providing clear and accurate information so all women feel they can make an informed choice about the available options to support their sexual health,” concludes Boughey.