New Zealand is about to become one of the first countries in the world to publicly fund an HIV prevention drug.
The medicine, brand name Truvada, currently costs $33 per day, but it'll be available for under $5 for a three-month supply from March 1, meaning those at high risk of HIV have another way to protect themselves.
When taken on a daily basis by an HIV negative person, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis will build up in the system and is extremely effective at reducing the chance of acquiring HIV through sexual contact.
“Providing affordable access to PrEP for those who need it will make an enormous difference to those most at risk of HIV transmission in New Zealand. It's a giant leap forward for our ambitious goal of ending new HIV transmissions in New Zealand by 2025,” says Executive Director of the New Zealand AIDS Foundation Dr Jason Myers.
Prior to this game changing development, PrEP was only available at a cost of around $1000 for 30 Truvada pills. As an economical alternative, many users have been forced to import generic versions of the drug from overseas pharmacies at a personal cost of around $50 per month.
“In deciding to fund PrEP, PHARMAC has endorsed a key part of NZAF's strategic plan, seeing PrEP as a safe and effective way of preventing HIV transmission during sex, and one that could make a huge impact on the number of new HIV diagnoses in NZ, which was at its highest ever in 2016,” says Jason.
“Condoms have been the mainstay of our HIV prevention response for over 30 years and have played a major role in keeping HIV prevalence low by world standards.
“For those who struggle with consistent condom use, which can be for a range of legitimate reason, NZAF is delighted that there will now be publicly funded access to this effective, alternative way of staying safe from HIV for those who need it.”
PHARMAC sought feedback on the proposal to fund PrEP late last year and a consultation process followed.
“We are also extremely heartened to see that PHARMAC took on board suggestions to expand funded PrEP access to include transgender men who are at high risk of HIV.”
“This is a very important step in addressing one of the health inequalities faced by trans men.”