EPIC-NSW stands for ‘Expanded PrEP Implementation in Communities in NSW’ that aims to assess the impact of the rapid expansion in access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) amongst those at high risk of acquiring HIV. The study is run by the Kirby Institute in collaboration with a number of partners and commenced in March 2016.

Enrolment is criteria-based and successful participants are administered PrEP and monitored during the course of the program.

In May 2016, Truvada was licensed for PrEP in Australia by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and from April 1st 2018, PrEP was listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), subsidising the cost of PrEP and broadening access across Australia.  These changes mean that all Australians with a Medicare card, who are eligible for PrEP can receive a script from any Australian doctor or general practitioner to collect from a pharmacy at a subsidised cost.

As such, recruitment into the EPIC-NSW study will cease enrolling new participants on April 30th 2018.

I am already on EPIC-NSW, what does the PBS listing mean for me?

Depending on the date you commenced in the study will determine your finish date.

  • If you enrolled before March 1st 2017 you are guaranteed free study PrEP for two years
  • If you enrolled after March 1st 2017 you will be given your last three months supply of free study PrEP at your next study visit

Your PrEP prescriber will go through this information and discuss transitional arrangements with you during your next appointment. At your final appointment, all EPIC-NSW participants will receive three months’ supply of free study PrEP. It is important that you make any necessary arrangements early to ensure you have continued supply of PrEP.

If you are going to be collecting your PrEP from a new or different pharmacy, you may also need to check with them in advance to ensure they have PrEP available when you need it.

Can I still join EPIC-NSW?

The EPIC-NSW study will cease new enrolments on April 30th 2018. If you enrol between now and April 30th you will be eligible for up to four month’s supply of PrEP. You receive an initial script for one month’s supply and then a final script for three months’ supply.

Who is eligible for EPIC-NSW?

The guidance in NSW for clinicians to prescribe daily PrEP is related to individuals being considered at medium to high risk of acquiring HIV.

PrEP is recommended if the individual acknowledges being likely to have multiple events of condomless anal intercourse in the next three months (indicating sustained risk), with or without sharing intravenous drug use and having any of the following:

  • Regular condomless sex in the last three months with a HIV positive partner, whereby they are not on treatment and/or has a detectable viral load;
  • At least one episode of receptive condomless anal intercourse with any casual HIV-infected male partner or a male partner of unknown HIV status in the last three months;
  • Rectal gonorrhoea, rectal chlamydia or infectious syphilis diagnosis during the last three months or at screening;
  • Methamphetamine use in the last three months

Ok, how do I join?

If you think PrEP is for you and would like to join EPIC-NSW, a good first step is to contact the PrEP Info Service on 1800 451 624 for more details and to find a site that is enrolling near you. You can also contact ACON on 02 9206 2000 for further information.

How else can I access PrEP?

Australian Healthcare System

If you are an Australian resident with a current Medicare card you can access PrEP through the PBS at a subsidised cost. This means any doctor or general practitioner can write a script for PrEP which you can take to any pharmacy for dispensing (collection).

The cost will depend on your personal circumstances. A script for one month’s supply of PrEP will cost $39.50 ($118.50 for three months) or $6.40 ($19.20 for three months) if you have a concession card.

Personal Importation

If you are not able to access PrEP through Medicare, another option is to purchase a generic version of Truvada from a reliable overseas supplier. You still require a script from a doctor before ordering online. There are multiple suppliers who export PrEP into Australia at a range of costs. Visit the ‘PrEP Access Now’ website for more information.

How can I find out more?

For more information about the EPIC-NSW study visit epic-nswstudy.org.au or download the participant info booklet here.

In NSW, you can contact the PrEP Info Service on 1800 451 624, open Monday to Friday 9am till 5:30pm for more information about PrEP. The PrEP Info Service provides further information for community members and healthcare professionals.

Partners involved in the EPIC-NSW study include the Kirby Institute, UNSW (leading the study), NSW Health, ACON, Positive Life NSW, the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM), a number of general practitioners who specialise in HIV, private practices and NSW publicly-funded sexual health clinics.