Introducing PrEP – the little blue pill making a big impact

By Chris Williams, updated 4 weeks ago in Health / Sexual health

blue prep pills

Can you imagine what it’s like to know you’re protected against HIV all day, every day? It’s already a reality for thousands of guys around the country who are benefiting from a groundbreaking HIV prevention strategy known as PrEP. Here’s what you need to know to figure it all out.

If you haven’t already heard of it, PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis. If you’re HIV negative, it’s a powerful strategy that uses prescription medication to protect you against HIV… and it can be accessed from GP’s, sexual health centres and pharmacies across Australia now.

Using PrEP is as straight-forward as taking one pill a day for as long as you choose to be protected. But using PrEP is much more than just taking a pill — it’s a complete program for looking after your sexual wellbeing. The PrEP program involves attending quarterly checkups with helpful medical professionals who are supporting thousands of other guys already on board.

“…using PrEP is much more than just taking a pill — it’s a complete program for looking after your sexual wellbeing.”

There are already an estimated 18,000+ people in Australia benefiting from reduced anxiety around acquiring HIV. That’s because when used as advised, PrEP offers extremely high levels of protection against the virus.

10 things you need to know about Daily PrEP | Thorne Harbour Health

Could you benefit?

Whether you do or don’t use condoms regularly, PrEP could still be right for you. While PrEP offers protection against HIV, it doesn’t protect you against other STIs. The good news is that most of the common bacterial ones are easily curable, and those regular sexual health checkups will help identify and treat any before they become an inconvenience to you or other people.

“Everyday PrEP is for everyday guys who want to maximise their protection against HIV.”

Some people might think PrEP is just for people at high risk of acquiring HIV, and nobody likes to think of themselves as being risky or unsafe. Everyday PrEP is for everyday guys who want to maximise their protection against HIV. So if you identify as a man who has sex with other men, then PrEP offers huge benefits, especially for receptive partners (guys who are bottoming): you’re no longer having to rely on someone else keeping you safe.

The medication used in PrEP is tolerated just fine by most people, so side effects aren’t guaranteed for everyone. It’s been used to treat people living with HIV since 2004, so it’s well established and understood by our doctors.

Getting PrEP

There are already doctors prescribing PrEP in every capital city, as well as coverage for some regional and rural areas across the country.

Since April 1, 2018, PrEP is available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) as an Australian Government subsidised medicine. With a script from a GP, you can get PrEP from any local pharmacy for no more than $31.60 per month, or $7.70 for concessions. You can discover all PrEP buying options in How to buy PrEP – even if you can’t afford it.

“With a script from a GP, you can get PrEP from any local pharmacy for no more than $31.60 per month, or $7.70 for concessions.”

Did you also know can import it for yourself? That’s good to know for people who don’t have access to Medicare or want to pay less than the PBS price. Prices for getting PrEP posted straight to your door start from around $20 a month, and there’s also a community purchase assistance scheme to help anyone who cannot afford to buy PrEP.

Check out How to buy PrEP online for personal importation for more information on how you can import PrEP.

Unprecedented global impact

Since being introduced to places with hefty populations of gay and bisexual men, major cities like London and San Francisco have reported new HIV diagnoses down by more than a third. There is little doubt that PrEP has played a significant role in these reductions. And it’s only just the start of what is hoped to be a continuation in the decline of new infections over the coming years. Something the world hasn’t seen since the beginning of the epidemic in the 1980s.

Even on our home turf, the impact PrEP is having on reducing HIV transmissions is making headline news in New South Wales and in Queensland. And it’s not just about virus prevention. The advent of PrEP is changing the way we think and feel about people living with HIV, helping to open up the conversation and reduce stigma.

What’s also amazing is that medical science is advancing in this field at an accelerated rate. There are already two other drugs being trialled in the pipeline as additional options for use as PrEP, including a long lasting injectable solution that could be on the market by 2020.

Community support

If you’re wondering if PrEP is right for you, or someone else, there are heaps of resources online to help you get started and stay supported. Community groups like PrEP’D For Change and PAN (PrEPaccessNOW) have been working alongside AIDS Councils and HIV organisations to support an ever increasing number of guys who are choosing PrEP and making HIV history.

How to get PrEP in Australia

Want to know how to get PrEP wherever you’re based in Australia? Here’s everything you need to know about finding a GP, PrEP on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, buying online and seeking financial support.