In response to what has been a concerning trend of increased HIV infection, Australia has set itself an ambitious goal of no new cases of HIV infection by 2020.
Over the last 20 years the number of people living with HIV within Australia has steadily increased. This is despite the availability of HIV testing centers and availability of HIV test kits allowing for HIV testing by individuals at home.
One controversial approach is receiving allot of attention in the media and within the “at risk” community.
PrEP which is short for pre-exposure prophylaxis, is a medication containing a combination/cocktail of medicines that are used to treat those how are already infected with HIV. International clinical trials have proven that if PrEP is taken daily it can reduce the risk of HIV infection in individuals by up to 90%. As you can imagine, this is a highly controversial and potentially risky method of combatting the currently concerning HIV infection rates in Australia. The risk is obvious. Individuals may believe they are in fact immune to HIV and resume at risk sexual behaviour. Also of course as with any ongoing drug cocktail they are health costs to pay for this potential protection.
PrEP is manufactured by Gilead and marketed under the name Truvada. The drug is not available in Australia as it has not been approved for preventative use in Australia. One concerning development is that individuals are obtaining the drug through unofficial; channels and using the drug in a non-supervised capacity.
A supervised trial is being conducted in Victoria to evaluate its potential use in Australia. Potentially this avenue of HIV prevention could be beneficial to the Australian at risk community. It is certainly not a complete alternate to HIV testing whether in clinics of by using HIV test kits, but it may well prove to be one of many tools that help reduce Australia’s HIV infection rate. At a cost of approximately $700 a month, PrEP is certainly not a cheap treatment or preventative measure to adopt. Additionally with less than 100% protection and health side effects this method may be some way off wide spread use within the at risk of HIV infection community.
Just at more HIV testing ultimately leads to lower rates of HIV infection, so also may measures to reduce the risk of transmission should an individual practice unprotected sex. Certain individuals accept they are at risk, and being 100% protected is not always viable. In those cases, they accept that such a preventative treatment may be worth the costs but financially and physically.
Until this product or approach is properly tested and evolved the most certain way to avoid HIV infection is to practice safe sex. Unless you and your partner have tested for HIV through a clinic or by using HIV test kits and are 100% sure of the sexual history of the last 3 months then any act of unprotected sex puts you at risk of HIV infection.
It is essential that individuals at risk of HIV infection do not become early adopters of potential technologies until they are well tested and proved. HIV testing, safe sex are well tested, well proved to reduce HIV transmission.