Landmark HIV prevention trial aims to virtually eliminate new infections in NSW by 2020

(SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA, 1 December 2015) New South Wales will host a landmark clinical trial, led by researchers from the Kirby Institute at UNSW Australia, designed to reduce new HIV infections to half the present rate within two years and to virtually eliminate HIV transmission by 2020.

The NSW Minister for Health, the Hon. Jillian Skinner, chose World AIDS Day to launch the EPIC-NSW trial (Expanded PrEP Implementation in Communities), which has the potential to change the face of HIV transmission in NSW. The trial is the first of its kind to combine rapid roll-out with population-level monitoring.

The trial will see HIV negative people at high risk of HIV infection given a daily dose of medication currently being used as a component of standard HIV treatment in Australia. This strategy is called PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis. A growing number of international clinical trials have established PrEP to be highly effective at preventing HIV infection among high-risk people.

“This trial presents an exciting opportunity to dramatically reduce HIV diagnoses in New South Wales,” said Professor David Cooper, Director of the Kirby Institute and Principal Investigator on the trial. “Rapid enrolment, high coverage and precision targeting are crucial to the success of this trial and if done properly, it will bring about the rapid reduction of HIV transmission in NSW, and the virtual elimination of new HIV infections by 2020.”

NSW will become the first state in Australia to implement such a rapid and large-scale trial of this HIV prevention strategy. 3700 high-risk, mostly gay and bisexual men will be enrolled through the state-wide network of public sexual health clinics and selected GP practices, potentially preventing almost 150 new HIV infections in these men over a one-year period.

EPIC-NSW brings together leaders from research, community, industry and public health sectors and if successful, will pave the way for the widespread use of PrEP.

“New South Wales has a strong track record in the response to HIV, and this trial sets us up to continue the success story,” said Professor Cooper. “New South Wales Health have committed crucial resources and drawn together key partners. I’m excited to be working with ACON, Positive Life NSW and ASHM. It is this partnership approach that is the principal strength of this trial.”

This announcement comes amidst growing calls from gay and bisexual communities to increase access to PrEP in Australia.         

“PrEP is a game-changing, biomedical strategy for gay and bisexual men to protect themselves from the risk of HIV infection,” said Professor Andrew Grulich, head of the HIV Epidemiology and Prevention program at the Kirby Institute. “But PrEP does not protect against other STIs, so it is still important to use condoms and to have regular screening for STIs.”

This trial is sponsored by the Kirby Institute at UNSW Australia. A significant proportion of treatment for the trial has been provided by Gilead Sciences.

Recruitment is expected to commence by Mardi Gras 2016. Further information about the trial can be found at: www.endinghiv.org.au/nsw/epic

 

Stakeholder quotes:

“ACON is thrilled to be involved in the historic project. The EPIC-NSW study will play a vital role in helping us realise our goal of eliminating HIV transmission by 2020. When we combine the projected impact of the initiative with our increasing rates of HIV testing among gay men and stronger uptake of treatment among people with HIV, we have the potential to deliver the biggest reduction in HIV transmission rates in NSW for more than 20 years. This is an incredibly exciting development in terms of the HIV prevention landscape.” Nicolas Parkhill, CEO of ACON – NSW’s leading HIV prevention agency

“Positive Life is excited about the improved access to PrEP which will empower people at high risk of HIV infection to stay negative. This increased availability of PrEP to the community should begin to release us from anxiety and fear of transmitting or acquiring HIV and advance the goal of the virtual elimination of HIV by 2020.” Craig Cooper, CEO, Positive Life NSW

“Gilead Sciences is proud to be working in partnership with the Kirby Institute to support ongoing scientific research to improve the understanding, treatment and prevention of HIV.” Rob Hetherington, General Manager, Gilead Sciences ANZ

Media Inquiries:

Laurie Legere
Media and Communications Manager
The Kirby Institute, UNSW Australia
llegere@kirby.unsw.edu.au
(02) 9385 9987

Lucienne Bamford
Communications Officer
The Kirby Institute, UNSW Australia
lbamford@kirby.unsw.edu.au
(02) 9385 0550

Date published: 
Monday, 30 November 2015
Contact: 
Laurie Legere
Phone: 
02 9385 9987

Events