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Fitness and body

How to buy PrEP – even if you can’t afford it

Even though PrEP’s now available on the PBS, what can you do if you can’t afford it? Here are your options whether you’ve got access to Medicare or not.

PrEP is a highly effective HIV prevention strategy that combines using prescription medicine with regular sexual health testing.

Since April 1, 2018, PrEP is available as a subsidised medicine through Australia’s publicly funded healthcare system.

About the PBS

PBS stands for Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. It lists all of the medicines that can be dispensed in pharmacies at a federal Government-subsidised price — which is handy as many medicines are more expensive than the reduced price you pay at the pharmacy.

The maximum set price for prescription medicines is called a patient co-payment. Having a maximum set price helps make medicines affordable to everyone who needs them. But to be eligible, you need to be an Australian resident who holds a current Medicare card.

“Even if you don’t have access to Medicare, affordable options for buying PrEP are still available.”

While PrEP is a PBS medicine, a doctor can still prescribe it off the PBS for someone without access to Medicare. This means the script can be used to buy PrEP from an online pharmacy for personal importation instead.

About Medicare

Medicare is operated by the Australian Government Department of Human Services. It’s available to all Australian citizens and permanent residents.

Having access to Medicare means you can claim some or all of the appointment costs when you see a doctor.

It also means you’re able to buy PrEP on the PBS — so you’ll pay the same subsidised price for PrEP no matter which local pharmacy you buy it from anywhere in Australia.

What if I don’t have access to Medicare?

Some international visitors can still access PrEP on the PBS. This is through Australia’s reciprocal healthcare agreements with the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand, Malta, Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, Norway, Belgium and Slovenia. If you’ve been a resident of any of these countries, visit the Department of Human Services to check eligibility and how you can enrol.

For other international visitors, having private insurance may help cover the cost of seeing a doctor, paying for tests or even buying PrEP. Not all insurance policies are the same so check with your insurance provider for what they’ll cover.

Starting a conversation with a doctor or sexual health centre is a great way to find out what you might have to pay for and how much it might cost.

“If you still can’t afford it, you can apply to get PrEP for free.”

Even if you don’t have access to Medicare, affordable options for buying PrEP are still available. Buying PrEP online for personal importation starts from around $20 per month, including delivery. If you still can’t afford it, you can apply to get PrEP for free.

How much is PrEP?

The price of PrEP can vary based upon your circumstances. These include whether you have access to Medicare, whether you have a PBS concession, where you choose to buy it from and other factors. Free PrEP is available for anyone who can’t afford it.

Whether you’re buying PrEP at a local pharmacy or online, a valid prescription is always required.

PrEP on the PBS purchased from any Australian pharmacy

  • $41.00 for a 30 day supply for general patients, or
  • $6.60 for a 30 day supply for concession card holders

People who buy other medicines on the PBS may be eligible to get PrEP cheaper or for free through the PBS Safety Net Scheme.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people may be eligible to get PrEP cheaper or for free through the Closing the Gap Scheme.

Although it’s possible to buy PrEP from a local pharmacy without Medicare, this could cost upwards from around $170 for one month’s supply. Buying PrEP from an online pharmacy could be a more affordable alternative.

PrEP purchased from an online pharmacy for personal import

  • Starting from around $20.00 (including delivery) for a 30 day supply
  • Free (including delivery) for a full three months’ (90 day) supply through a Purchase Assistance Scheme

How can I buy PrEP online?

Whether you do or don’t have access to Medicare, the TGA’s Personal Importation Scheme permits anyone with a valid prescription to import PrEP for personal use. The scheme permits you to import up to three months’ supply at a time and no more than 15 months’ supply during any 12 month period.

Using the scheme is easy as choosing an online pharmacy, uploading your prescription, paying for your order and waiting for your PrEP to arrive. Delivery usually takes up to two weeks but may take long, so be sure to plan ahead. Prices start from around $20 per month, including delivery to your door.

Check out How to buy PrEP online for personal importation for details of online pharmacies and choosing the right medicines.

Can I get a PBS concession?

Some people may be eligible to get PrEP on the PBS cheaper or for free with a concession card. This includes the Pensioner Concession Card, Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, Health Care Card and DVA Health Cards.

For details and conditions, check out the PBS website.

What if I’m already paying for other prescription medicines? (PBS Safety Net)

If you buy other PBS medicines, the Australian Government offers a scheme to help you get medicines cheaper or for free if you’ve already spent a certain amount of money throughout the year. This is called the PBS Safety Net threshold.

Once you spend enough each calendar year to reach the Safety Net threshold, you’ll pay less for any PBS medicines you buy from then on until December 31. Your pharmacist can help track the amount you’ve spent on PBS medicines so you know when you’re approaching the threshold.

The PBS Safety Net threshold resets on January 1 each year. For 2020, the spending thresholds are $1,486.80 for general patients or $316.80 for concession card holders. Once you’ve spent enough to qualify for the Safety Net during the year, instead of paying the usual PBS co-payment fee, you’ll pay less for each item:

  • $6.60 for a 30 day supply for general patients, or
  • Free for a 30 day supply for concession card holders

What if I’m an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Australian? (Closing the Gap Scheme)

The PBS Closing the Gap Scheme is made available by the Australian Government to reduce the cost of PBS medicines for eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with, or at risk of, chronic disease — this includes HIV.

Not all doctors can prescribe medicines under the Closing the Gap Scheme, so it’s best to ask if your doctor is able to.

Once your doctor has marked your prescription for the Closing the Gap Scheme, you can buy PrEP from any local pharmacy. For each 30 days supply of PrEP, the cost will be:

  • $6.60 for a 30 day supply for general patients, or
  • Free for a 30 day supply for concession card holders

What if I still can’t afford PrEP? (Free PrEP through Purchase Assistance Schemes)

For anyone who cannot afford to buy PrEP on the PBS or from an online pharmacy, help is at hand. Purchase Assistance Schemes have been created to help cover the cost of PrEP, though these schemes do not cover the cost of seeing a doctor or paying for pathology tests.

If you’re in a situation where you can’t afford to buy PrEP, contact any of these organisations for assistance:

Eligible applicants receive a coupon to get a full three months’ supply of PrEP for free, including delivery. A valid prescription is always required.

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