New community forum on HIV prevention
MELBOURNE: The Victorian AIDS Council (VAC) is holding a community forum on Thursday, May 1 regarding Pre Exposure Prophylaxis, commonly known as PrEP.
The new HIV prevention strategy is to be taken by HIV negative people before becoming at risk of exposure to HIV, together with other preventative measures such as condom use and regular HIV and STI screening.
PrEP is not to be confused with PEP (Post Exposure Prophylaxis), which is designed to be taken for 28 days within 72 hours of being exposed to HIV.
Research has found that men who have sex with men who take their PrEP tablets daily and use other prevention measures reduce their risk of HIV transmission by 99 per cent.
Truvada, the medication approved for the trial as PrEP in Australia, is also one of the medications used for PEP, as well as one of the drugs used by HIV positive people to stop the virus from replicating.
Associate Professor Edwina Wright from the Alfred Hospital, Monash University and the Burnet Institute told MCV how Truvada works differently in HIV negative people.
“In an HIV negative person, what you’re hoping to achieve is for the drug to be present at high levels in the tissues of the body where we get exposed to HIV, so that if a person is exposed to the virus, the drug is able to kill it off very quickly,” she said.
Wright added there are quite a few reasons why the introduction of PrEP might be good news for serodiscordant couples.
“PrEP is definitely useful for serodiscordant couples especially if the HIV positive person has decided to come off treatment, if they’re on treatment but it’s not working and the virus is still detectable, if the negative person is not quite sure if they positive person is taking the meds, or if the negative person is having relationships outside that relationship, as they have outside risks as well.”
Wright said side effects included nausea and back pain, “but people typically get over those”.
“There is also evidence that there is a small but significant risk of having changes in the health of the bones and the kidneys. However, it is unclear if these changes are clinically significant.”
Although the drug has not yet been approved for wide use in Australia, medical trials will begin very soon and those who wish to take part in the trial will have access to the medication.
The trial will investigate the adherence, behavioural change, acceptability, safety, and feasibility of the use of HIV PrEP in the Victorian Community.
The forum is free and will be held on Thursday, May 1 at Russell Kennedy Solicitors, Level 12, 469 La Trobe Street, Melbourne between 6-8pm. It will provide the community with information regarding availability, side effects and the medical trial. Dinner and drinks provided.
For more information call VAC on (03) 9865 6700.