Trials are already underway into Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, or PrEP, in Queensland.
Trials are already underway into Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, or PrEP, in Queensland. MELANIE FOSTER

High-risk urged: take part in HIV medication trial

BUNDABERG residents are being encouraged to take part in a trial of medication to prevent HIV.

More than 1200 people are taking part in the State Government's $6 million four-year Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis trial.

Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Cameron Dick said the strong uptake demonstrated the high demand for the trial, which has filled more than half of its 2000 places, less than five months after its launch.

"The research shows PrEP can dramatically reduce the risk of contracting HIV, so this trial has the potential to positively impact the lives of Queenslanders at high risk of contracting the virus,” Mr Dick said.

"That's why in late 2016, our Government made an additional 2,000 places available for the expanded Q-PrEP trial.

"As part of our Sexual Health Strategy, the first of its kind in Australia, we are actively looking to increase the uptake of HIV prevention strategies and the PrEP trial is a key part of this.

"We still have 800 places available on the trial so we're encouraging eligible Queenslanders to get involved.”

Mr Dick said 20 Q-PrEP trial sites from the Gold Coast to Cairns and west to Mt Isa and Toowoomba were now operational, including Q Clinic Wide Bay Sexual Health Service at the Margaret Rose Centre, 312 Bourbong St.

The medication is free to trial participants.

The expanded QPrEP trial began in November and is part of the government's commitment to work towards the virtual elimination of new HIV transmissions in Queensland by 2020 as outlined in the Queensland Sexual Health Strategy.

Data to April 2, 2017 shows there have been 48 notifications compared with 57 in 2016, a reduction of nearly 16%.

"This is an encouraging sign but the challenge now is to sustain this reduction which will require a strong response from the community,” Mr Dick said.

Increased testing for HIV and significant uptakes in treatment by HIV positive men in Queensland is highlighted by the release of the 2016 Queensland Gay Community Periodic Survey undertaken by the Centre for Social Research in Health at the University of New South Wales in partnership with the Queensland AIDS Council.

"The results of the survey indicate gay and other men who have sex with men were being proactive about being tested for HIV and other sexually transmissible infections regularly, and are undergoing treatment if diagnosed as HIV positive,” Mr Dick said.


. The percentage of men responding to the survey who had an HIV test in the previous year increased from 71% in 2012 to 78% in 2016.

. Men reporting more regular testing, with 23% of those surveyed having three or more HIV tests in the previous year, up from 16%in 2013.

. HIV-negative men reporting any STI testing increased significantly from 69.7% in 2012 to 76.4% in 2016.

. The percentage of HIV-positive men on antiretroviral treatment increased significantly from 70% in 2012 to 96% in 2016.

. Use of PrEP increased significantly between 2015 and 2016, from 2.4% to 6.5%.

The 2016 survey was undertaken prior to the commencement of the expanded Queensland PrEP trial in November last year.

The findings were also welcomed by Adjunct Associate Professor Darryl O'Donnell, chief executive officer of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations.

"This is a great testament to Queensland's efforts and the continuing responsiveness of communities to HIV,” Prof O'Donnell said.

"Queensland is seeing striking year on year increases in HIV testing and HIV treatment.

"Gay and bisexual men are testing more often and treatment rates are higher than they've ever been.

"We can take real comfort that even after 35 years, gay and bisexual men remain engaged and proactive around HIV prevention and treatment.

"Results like these don't occur by accident. They require enormous effort by community organisations that are trusted and credible with those who are at risk of HIV.”

The Gay Periodic Survey is available here.

To learn more about the trial in Bundaberg, phone Q Clinic Wide Bay on 4150 2754.

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