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News, Queensland

‘Miracle’ PrEP credited for unprecedented drop in Queensland HIV cases

Queensland’s rate of new HIV cases has dropped dramatically in what has been called a “modern miracle”.

Queensland Health last year received just 153 notifications of new cases, compared to 246 in 2014 – a decrease of 37%.

Queensland Council for LGBTI Health President Peter Black told QNews that the drop could be attributed to a number of factors, particularly pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

PrEP is a once-daily antiviral medication that prevents the transmission of HIV when regularly taken by HIV-negative people.

Only a few people taking PrEP have ever contracted the virus.

“It’s a combination of more testing, early treatment, and the use of PrEP, which has seen success in the reduction of HIV transmission rates,” said Black.

He praised the “great deal of work done throughout the community, throughout the medical sectors, throughout the research sectors, and with government over the last several years to try and bring down new transmissions of HIV”.

Black noted that increased testing means that people with HIV are starting treatment earlier, with the majority achieving undetectable viral loads, meaning they cannot transmit it.

Despite the overall drop in new cases, Black said that not all communities had seen the same improvement.

“We are particularly concerned about the rates of transmission among heterosexual men,” he said.

“But also, more effort is needed to reach and support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBTI, Sistergirl, and Brotherboy people, particularly in regional areas, as well as transgender and gender diverse people.

“We know they continue to face unacceptable barriers to appropriate and knowledgeable support and testing.

“Community organisations, government, and the medical and research sectors need to continue to reach and work with those communities.

“We must ensure that the success targeting the gay and bisexual communities is carried over to other at-risk communities.”

National figures in 2017 showed that 89% of people living with HIV in Australia were diagnosed, and 95% of those on treatment had achieved an undetectable viral load.

PrEP is available under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and through alternative sources for those who are not eligible.

HIV information, testing, treatment, and support are available through medical centres, LGBTIQ health organisations, and state and territory HIV organisations.

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