Getting 3700 people involved in Australia’s first large scale trial of a new HIV prevention drug will be a significant step towards ending HIV transmission in NSW by 2020, according to ACON.
Announced today on World AIDS Day by NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner, the Expanded PrEP Implementation in Communities (EPIC-NSW) project is being led by University of NSW’s Kirby Institute and seeks to assess the effectiveness of PrEP in an Australian context.
PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis and it’s an antiretroviral treatment taken by HIV negative people at high risk of HIV transmission to prevent HIV infection. While overseas studies have shown that PrEP is extremely effective at preventing HIV transmission, the drug is not yet approved for use here in Australia by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). The new EPIC trial aims to increase understanding of the drug’s efficacy by making it accessible to thousands of people at high risk of HIV transmission.
ACON will be a key partner in the EPIC study which is being supported by NSW Health in association with Positive Life NSW and the Australian Society of HIV Medicine. 3700 people at high risk of HIV transmission will be recruited to participate in the study and will be given access to PrEP for up to two years.
ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill says ACON is thrilled to be involved in the historic project, which is projected to bring about a dramatic reduction in new HIV transmissions. “PrEP is going to be a game changer in terms of HIV prevention in NSW. In conjunction with high HIV testing rates among gay men and strong treatment uptake among people with HIV, it’s helping revolutionise HIV prevention in our sister city San Francisco.
“Here in NSW, the EPIC project will play a vital role in helping us realise our goal of eliminating HIV transmission by 2020. As a result of this initiative, 3700 people at high risk of HIV transmission will soon be much better protected from acquiring HIV. When we combine this with our increasing rates of HIV testing among gay men and stronger uptake of treatment among people with HIV, we have the potential to deliver the biggest reduction in HIV transmission rates in NSW for more than 20 years. This is an incredibly exciting development in terms of the HIV prevention landscape.
“We will be heavily involved in promoting the initiative as well as recruiting participants and we look forward to working with the Kirby Institute, NSW Health and other project partners to ensure the EPIC study is a success. We commend NSW Health Minster Jillian Skinner for her vision and commitment in relation to ending HIV transmission in NSW by 2020. Once again NSW is setting the agenda for what an effective contemporary HIV response looks like. We now hope the Federal Government and other state governments embrace policies and programs that will fast track access to PrEP for gay men in their communities.
“Of course we will continue to promote the use of condoms and other strategies for reducing the risk of HIV transmission as we believe all approaches have an important role to play in terms of HIV prevention. What PrEP allows us to do is talk to guys about a new way to reduce the risk of HIV transmission. Also, PrEP does not prevent the transmission of other sexually transmissible infections and so it’s important that gay men continue to use condoms and to get tested regularly for HIV and other STIs as part of their ongoing health regime.”
For more information about the EPIC study or to get involved, please visit: www.endinghiv.org.au/nsw/epic
ENDS *LGBTI = lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex
Media contact: Andrew Hamadanian, ACON Media and Communication Officer
T: (02) 9206 2044 E: firstname.lastname@example.org M: 0419 555 768