Eradicating HIV transmissions by 2020

UNSW researchers expect to ‘virtually eliminate’ HIV transmission in NSW by 2020.

A landmark trial run by UNSW researchers is expected to ‘virtually eliminate’ HIV transmission in the state of New South Wales (NSW) by 2020.

Called ‘EPIC-NSW’, the trial is led by researchers at UNSW’s Kirby Institute. It administers HIV negative people and those at high risk of HIV infection in NSW with a daily dose of medication.

This strategy is known as PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, and is currently being used to treat HIV in Australia. A growing number of international clinical trials have confirmed PrEP is highly effective at preventing HIV infection among high-risk people.

A total of 3,700 mostly gay and bisexual men will be enrolled through the state-wide network of public sexual health clinics, potentially preventing almost 150 new HIV infections in one year and halving them over a two year period.

“Rapid enrolment, high coverage and precision targeting are crucial to the success of this trial,” said Professor David Cooper, Director of the Kirby Institute and principal investigator on the trial.

David and his team are working together with the State Government, ACON, Positive Life NSW and the Australasian Society for HIV, viral hepatitis and sexual health medicine.

The announcement comes amid growing calls from gay and bisexual communities to increase access to PrEP in Australia. Currently people not participating in clinical trials and who want to access the drug need to import it using the TGA-approved personal importation scheme.

Professor Andrew Grulich, head of the HIV Epidemiology and Prevention program at the Kirby Institute, said PrEP is a game-changing, biomedical strategy.

"But PrEP does not protect against other sexually-transmitted infections, so it is still important to use condoms and to have regular screenings," Professor Grulich said.

The Medicine faculty at UNSW Australia is one of the world's top 50 medical schools and a world research leader in Indigenous health, cancer, neuroscience, mental health, cardiovascular disease, healthcare innovation and immunology HIV.

Read more about the trial.

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