Advisory body defers Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme recommendation for HIV prevention pill

The Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations has called on two drug companies and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee to fast track negotiations, after today’s disappointing decision to defer listing the highly effective HIV prevention medicine, PrEP, on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

Pre-exposure Prophylaxis, known as PrEP, is a pill taken once daily that is extremely effective in preventing HIV. PrEP is 99 per cent effective in preventing HIV transmission.

The UK PROUD study showed for every 13 people on PrEP for one year, one HIV transmission is avoided. Approximately 31,000 Australian gay and bisexual men are at high risk of HIV and would directly benefit from a PBS listing.

Mylan and Gilead Sciences both brought applications before PBAC. The Committee has not rejected the applications, but has deferred its decision as it seeks further information on the number of people likely to use PrEP and conducts price negotiations. PBAC has accepted that PrEP is effective in preventing HIV transmission.

“Given PrEP is so effective at preventing HIV transmission, people will be disappointed and deeply frustrated at this outcome,” said Darryl O’Donnell, chief executive officer of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations. “HIV will be needlessly transmitted while we wait for equitable and affordable access to PrEP.

“Without access to PrEP, Australia will not achieve its target of ending HIV transmission by 2020.

“With Truvada now off patent, there’s no reason PBAC shouldn’t be able to negotiate a fair and reasonable price.

“Gilead, Mylan and the PBAC need to expedite this process. The drug companies need to be realistic about the price they charge and PBAC needs to marshal all the information available to support the PBS listing of PrEP.

“Australia’s HIV transmission rate has stubbornly plateaued at around 1,100 new infections per year for the past five years. With PrEP at the centre of a revived HIV response, we would make serious inroads in ending HIV transmission.”

Robert Mitchell, Vice-President of the National Association of People with HIV Australia (NAPWHA), endorsed calls for urgent discussions between the PBAC and Gilead Sciences and Mylan to ensure PrEP is listed on the PBS as soon as possible.

“PrEP will help counter stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV and people at high risk of HIV. PrEP keeps people at high risk of HIV safe and gives people control and confidence. This helps everyone take responsibility for HIV prevention” Mr Mitchell said.

For AFAO media comment: Nick Lucchinelli – 0422 229 032

NAPWHA: Robert Mitchell– 03 6239 6797

YOU CAN DOWNLOAD THE PDF OF THIS MEDIA RELEASE HERE: AFAO media release – PrEP PBAC Announcement – 18 August 2017



$32.5 million annually for new effort would end Australian HIV Transmission

A comprehensive, costed plan to make Australia the first nation to end HIV transmission will be presented to parliamentarians tomorrow.

The Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations’ HIV Blueprint charts a course to avert 2,025 HIV transmissions within three years. The plan would require additional annual investment of $32.5 million, with the Commonwealth Government offsetting those costs in a few short years. By 2020 alone, $82 million would be saved from the costs of providing treatment and support.

The financial benefit to the Commonwealth would continue to compound thereafter, with lifetime savings from the first 2,025 averted infections exceeding $2 billion. The HIV Blueprint is built on modelling by researchers at the Burnet Institute.

The HIV Blueprint highlights the additional effort needed to end HIV transmission in Australia. This requires investment in:

  • developing national education programs for local delivery by peer based organisations;
  • increasing the focus on ‘hidden’ populations at risk, including people with late diagnoses or unsuspected HIV;
  • communicating the benefits of the once-a-day HIV prevention pill, PrEP;
  • promoting HIV rapid testing and, once registered, HIV self-testing;
  • developing a media and communication strategy to promote safe sex and testing among Australians having sex while travelling;
  • implementing a sustained HIV response among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people;
  • improving the expertise and knowledge of the HIV workforce;
  • unlocking big data from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and Medicare Benefits Schedule and improving program evaluation.

“Australia is at an inflection point. HIV transmission has plateaued at approximately one thousand notifications per year for the past five years. Yet the capacity to end HIV transmission is within reach. Just as we led the world in containing HIV in the 1980s, we can now lead the world in ending transmission,” said Darryl O’Donnell, chief executive officer of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations.

“To reach a goal this worthwhile and ambitious will take great effort. We won’t get there through business as usual. Most of all, it means we must provide greater support for communities working to end HIV transmission.

“A range of exciting new technology is becoming available, but unless we promote the benefits of this, we won’t defeat this epidemic.

“Ending HIV transmission is the right thing to do. Many thousands of Australians will be spared the stigma and discrimination that continues to flourish in the shadows of this virus.

“It makes extraordinary financial sense. If we invest to end HIV transmission now, we will enjoy huge net savings over time. The compounding benefit over the lifetime of these averted transmissions is more than $2 billion.

“There is no single solution to HIV transmission and medicine alone won’t end the epidemic. It requires investment in prevention, testing and treatment programs and workforce support. HIV community organisations have the expertise and motivation to provide governments with a powerful ally in ending an epidemic.”

The HIV Blueprint has been endorsed by 29 community, clinical and research organisations, reflecting an overwhelming expert consensus for the efforts needed to end HIV transmission.

FOR MEDIA COMMENT, PLEASE CONTACT: Nick Lucchinelli 0422 229 032


Note to editors:
The funding package proposed is additional to existing funding for HIV prevention, testing, treatment and research. This proposal does not include provision for PBS listing of PrEP, which the Commonwealth has already committed to in the event one of the two applications being considered


Federal Budget: Drug Testing Of Welfare Recipients Costly and Pointless




10 May 2017


The Australian Injecting and Illicit Drug Users League (AIVL), Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO), National Association of People with HIV Australia (NAPWHA) and the Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Workers Association have warned that drug testing welfare recipients will be a costly and pointless exercise, particularly without additional funding for the alcohol and other drug (AOD) treatment sector.

“It has been announced that from 1 January 2018, Newstart Allowance and Youth Allowance (Other) claimants in trial locations may be subject to randomised drug testing as a precondition of their welfare payment as part of the claim process.  5000 new recipients across the three yet to be announced trial sites will be randomly drug tested, with the trial operating over 2 years.  While drug testing welfare recipients and quarantining welfare payments may seem like an appropriate incentive to encourage people to address drug use issues, there is actually no evidence that these types of coercive measures work,” said Melanie Walker, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of AIVL.

According to the Budget Papers:

“These measures will be aimed at stabilising the lives of people with alcohol and drug abuse problems by encouraging them to participate in rehabilitation, counselling support or other appropriate treatment as part of their Job Plan.”

“The other main problem with this concept is that while approximately 200,000 people receive AOD treatment in any one year in Australia, it is estimated that an additional 200,000 – 500,000 people seeking treatment are unable to access it. [1]  The National Ice Action Strategy saw a welcome 5% increase in AOD sector funding across the nation but obviously this falls far short of enabling a doubling of treatment places to meet current levels of demand,” explained Aaron Cogle, Executive Director of NAPWHA.

“In terms of demand reduction, AOD treatment is a good investment.  For every $1 invested in AOD treatment, society gains $7.  The money allocated to be spent on expensive drug testing of welfare recipients and related measures would be better spent on increasing access to evidence based, cost effective AOD treatment around the country.  We don’t actually need to round people up to coerce them into treatment – we have hundreds of thousands of people who are ready, willing and able to undertake treatment – they just can’t get in,” said Jules Kim, CEO of the Scarlet Alliance.

The drug testing Budget measure is accompanied by a suite of additional welfare reform measures aimed at coercing engagement with AOD treatment, including the “removal of exemptions due to drugs or alcohol abuse” and removal of eligibility for the Disability Support Pension.

“The trouble with this whole suite of measures is the absence of capacity to meet the existing demand for treatment.  There is not much point identifying an AOD problem if there is no capacity to treat it.  Drug testing welfare recipients will be a costly but pointless exercise in this context – the money would be better spent on funding more treatment places for people who already know they need them,” said Darryl O’Donnell, CEO of AFAO.



Melanie Walker, CEO, AIVL                                                                                                   0438 430 963

Darryl O’Donnell, CEO, AFAO                                                                                                0422 229 032

Aaron Cogle, Executive Director, NAPWHA                                                                      0468 438 214

Jules Kim, CEO, Scarlet Alliance                                                                                           0411 985 135

[1] New Horizons: The review of alcohol and other drug treatment services in Australia:$File/The-Review-of-alcohol-and-other-drug-treatment-services-in-Australia.pdf