Jack is a Journalism Student at UTS with an eye for politics, health and the LGBTI community.
A HIV drug will be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme from Sunday, sparking concerns about a surge in STIs among young men.
The drug used to protect against HIV has been available in NSW via clinical trial since 2016, and will be subsidised for general prescription from next week.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) involves HIV negative people taking antiretroviral drugs to protect them and prevent HIV infection.
While PrEP is over 99% effective in guarding against the transmission of HIV, it provides no protection from other STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea or syphilis.
“There’s a misconception that PrEP is 100% effective and that it’ll make you invincible to all STIs,” according to Garry Trotter, Clinical Nurse Consultant for HIV at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney.
Mr Trotter, who prescribes the drug to high-risk individuals, said the introduction of PrEP had been one of the biggest reasons for a reduction in condom use.
PrEP takes away the anxiety around intimacy for men and makes them feel much more comfortable having both safe, and unprotected sex.
A report by the Centre for Social Research in Health found that the proportion of gay and bisexual men who always use condoms fell from 68% in 2013, to 48% in 2016.
While Mr Trotter has campaigned for increased access to the drug, he is concerned that the education around PrEP will be lost in the initial excitement of its widespread release.
Over the past two years, the clinical trial has enrolled over 9,000 people – many of which are young gay men living in urban NSW.
Ben, a 22 year old bisexual man from Cronulla, has been prescribed PrEP via the trial for just over a year. Ben says that he’s "over the moon” about PrEP being listed on the PBS.
I’m a full-time student with a below average salary, if PrEP wasn’t going on the PBS once the trial finishes, I just wouldn’t be able to afford it.
Like many other men, Ben still talks to prospective partners about their sexual health, history and status - but admits there are times when he has been less stringent.
“PrEP gives me the peace of mind that if I don’t use a condom for whatever reason, or if it breaks, it’s not a death sentence.”
Health organisations such as ACON will continue to promote the importance of additional protection as PrEP becomes available to the public next week.
ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill congratulated the NSW Government for its ongoing commitment towards eliminating HIV transmission.
“Over the coming weeks and months, ACON will be communicating changes to PrEP access to the community,” Parkhill said.