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Landmark Australian HIV prevention trial

Landmark Australian HIV prevention trial
Photo: Landmark Australian HIV prevention trial
A landmark HIV prevention trial aims to virtually eliminate transmissions of the virus in NSW by 2020, says a researcher.

HIV negative people at high risk of being infected will receive antiretroviral drugs to stop them getting the disease in a landmark Australian trial.

The trial, announced on World AIDS Day, aims to reduce new HIV infections to half the present NSW rate within two years and to virtually eliminate HIV transmission by 2020.

Professor David Cooper, director of the Kirby Institute at UNSW, will lead the EPIC-NSW trial - Expanded PrEP Implementation in Communities.

Under pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), antiretroviral drugs used to treat HIV infection are given to HIV negative people to prevent them acquiring the disease.

The trial will involve 3700 high-risk, mostly gay and bisexual men, who will be enrolled through NSW public sexual health clinics and selected GP practices.
"Rapid enrolment, high coverage and precision targeting are crucial to the success of this trial and if done properly, it will bring about the rapid reduction of HIV transmission in NSW," said Prof Cooper.

The trial was a game changer for NSW which was already experiencing a steady decline in new HIV diagnoses, said the state's Health Minister Jillian Skinner.

"PrEP is recommended by the World Health Organisation and other international and national expert bodies for people who are at high risk of acquiring HIV infection," she said.
"It has been shown to be very effective in preventing HIV infection."

The government's HIV strategy included making testing more accessible and supporting HIV positive people to seek treatment earlier.

"Around 11,500 people in NSW live with HIV but around one in seven are unaware they are infected."

She also announced a pilot program of dried blood spot self-sampling, a simple test allowing people to take their own samples for HIV testing without the need to visit a clinic.

Meanwhile, the Victorian government has announced it will develop guidelines for doctors to prescribe PreP even though the treatment has not been approved by Australia's drug regulator.

The state's HIV community has welcomed the move.


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