Burnet Institute has welcomed the expansion into regional Victoria of a ground-breaking study providing people at risk of HIV with access to the life changing medication Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
Launching World AIDS Day 2016, Minister for Health Jill Hennessy announced the expansion of the PrEPX study as well as a new training program for GPs treating patients for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV.
PrEP is an HIV prevention medication for people at risk of HIV infection, and Burnet is a research partner in the PrEPX study.
More than 2600 at-risk Victorians are now accessing the drug through the PrEPX study at sites across metropolitan Melbourne including the Alfred Hospital and Melbourne Sexual Health Centre pharmacies.
It will now be expanded into rural and regional sites providing access to 150 places in the study.
Ballarat is on track to be first regional site, followed by Shepparton. In early 2017 sites will open in Bendigo, Mildura and Sale. Appointments are also expected to be available in Geelong and Wodonga in the New Year.
Local providers for the study will be:
- Ballarat Community Health Centre’s sexual health clinic
- University Hospital Geelong’s sexual health clinic
- A private GP in Shepparton
- Bendigo Community Health Service’s sexual health clinic
- Gateway Community Health Service’s sexual health clinic in Wodonga
- Alfred Health Outreach Clinics at Mildura Base Hospital
- Central Gippsland Health Service
“PrEP is giving us real hope of a future where HIV is virtually eliminated,” Ms Hennessy told guests at a World AIDS Day launch at Burnet Institute.
“It’s important that people living in regional Victoria can access this life changing medicine, closer to home – and we’re making that happen.”
Burnet’s Head of HIV Research, Associate Professor Mark Stoové said the rapid uptake of clinically supervised PrEP through the PrEPX project among Victorians at risk of HIV is unprecedented.
He expects the demand in regional Victoria to be just as strong.
“The interest speaks to the need to support a suite of evidence-based HIV prevention choices in Australia,” Associate Professor Stoové said.
“With the innovative HIV surveillance system maintained at Burnet Institute with support from the Victorian Government, we are also in a unique position to determine the population-level impact of PrEP.
“Our experiences with the scale-up of PrEP will therefore have global influence on the future of HIV prevention.”
The Government also announced a refreshed blood-borne virus training program for GPs, which is updated with the latest advances in treatment and care.
The new Victorian HIV, Hepatitis Integrated Training and Learning Program (VHHITAL) provides education and support for GPs on the diagnosis, treatment and management of HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.