PrEP, which reduces the risk of acquiring HIV, is already available in US, Canada, South Africa and France
Norway has become the first country in the world to offer PrEP – pre-exposure prophylaxis medication – on its national health service, following an announcement by the country’s minister for heath and social care, Bent Høie.
PrEP can cut the risk of acquiring HIV by over 86% and health advocates around the world have been campaigning for greater access to the drugs for those most at risk of HIV infection. This typically includes gay men.
The local advocacy group HIV Norway has been campaigning for PrEP for the past couple of years. In a statement, its President, Leif-Ove Hansen, said, ‘PrEP will contribute to reducing the rate of new infections in the gay community, as gay men are facing a risk of infection much higher than the general population.
‘Condom use is on the decline, and we are happy that PrEP now is an integrated part of the public health service.’
There are thought to be around 4,000 people living with HIV in Norway, which has a population of 5 million.
PrEP is already available in the US, Canada, South Africa and France, but Norway becomes the first country to offer it free through its national health service.
Campaigners in other countries have welcomed Norway’s announcement.
Ian Green, chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust said, ‘Norway’s decision to provide PrEP is another great step forward for HIV prevention in Europe. PrEP is a game changer and, when used alongside condoms, regular testing and effective treatment, it can help end the HIV epidemic for good.
PrEP is available in Australia by private prescription only, which can be costly. Local campaigners say the Norwegian decision encourages them to keep lobbying for the government to add PrEP (Truvada) to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) .
‘The decision to make PrEP freely available to these communities is yet another fantastic endorsement of PrEP as a key strategy to reduce HIV transmission,’ said Heath Paynter, deputy CEO, Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations.
‘AFAO is committed to supporting Australia to meet its obligation to virtually eliminate HIV by 2020 and this means making PrEP available through the PBS.’