DR. David Smith is performing HIV Rapid Testswith results knows in 10 minutes at the SHAIDS Clinic in Lismore. Photo Patrick Gorbunovs / The Northern Star
DR. David Smith is performing HIV Rapid Testswith results knows in 10 minutes at the SHAIDS Clinic in Lismore. Photo Patrick Gorbunovs / The Northern Star Patrick Gorbunovs

Trial of proven HIV drug open to local residents

A DRUG proven to be effective in preventing transmission of HIV will be trialled locally among those at highest risk of acquiring the infection, a strategy termed Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP).

Northern NSW Local Health District's (NNSW LHDs) Sexual Health Service is participating in the study known as EPIC.

Dr David Smith, Medical Director at the North Coast HIV/Sexual Health Services, said that anyone interested in participating in the study should contact the service to arrange assessment for eligibility.

"Those at highest risk of contracting HIV include those having a HIV positive partner not on treatment and homosexually active men," Dr Smith said.

The study is open for residents of NSW, or those spending considerable time in the state.

It will run for two years with enrolment open for 12 months or until places are filled.

Enrolment is available at Lismore, Byron Bay, Tweed Heads and soon Grafton.

"PrEP is the use of anti-retroviral drugs, taken by HIV negative people to prevent HIV infection," Dr Smith said.

According to the AIDS Council of NSW (ACON) website, PrEP studies have shown that the drug works when taken daily.

"Truvada (a combination of the drugs tenofovir and emtricitabine) is the only formulation that has so far been proven to work, but others are on the horizon," Dr Smith said. "Truvada has been licensed for use as PrEP in the USA, but it is not yet licensed for this indication by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) in Australia. It is hoped the medication will be made available through the PBS once licensed for this use in Australia."

Dr Smith said the study forms part of the NSW 'Ending HIV' strategy with 3700 places available on the EPIC trial.

"NSW Health and the study organisers are interested in getting all those needing protection, enrolled and taking the medication,' Dr Smith said.

"North Coast HIV/Sexual Health Services has a significant number of places reserved and it may be possible to enrol past this number depending on the number of places taken elsewhere in the state."

Dr Smith said there is a selection criteria that has to be addressed and is aimed at identifying those at highest risk of infection with the virus.

The Ministry of Health is hoping all those needing PrEP will be able to obtain it wherever they live.

Phone 6620 2980 or email Shaids.LBH@ncahs.health.nsw.gov.au

Ending HIV

  • This study is part of the larger 'Ending HIV' initiative that aims to virtually eliminate the transmission of HIV infection within NSW by 2020. The stated goal is a reduction in HIV notifications by 80% by 2020.
  • The three-pronged strategy includes increasing testing so anyone with the infection knows about it; encouraging all those with the infection to be on treatment (studies tell us that anyone with HIV is better on treatment than not, regardless of the apparent impact on their immune systems and also that transmission to others once on treatment is virtually eliminated); and use of preventive measures which include strong encouragement for the use of condoms and PrEP.
  • PrEP has been shown to be at least 86% effective in reducing infection with HIV in those who take the medication, and is probably considerably higher.
  • The trial is set to run for two years by which time it is hoped the medication will be available on the PBS through Medicare.