Health experts raise concerns for low uptake of drug which prevents HIV transmission

Sexual health experts are raising concerns about the low uptake of a publicly funded drug that prevents the transmission of HIV.

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Sexual health experts are worried not enough people are taking up a publicly-funded drug that prevents the transmission of HIV with estimates that fewer than a quarter of the 4000 eligible are taking up the offer. Source: 1 NEWS

Pharmac estimates around 4000 people meet the criteria for the drug known as 'prep', but less than a quarter of them have taken up the offer.

Testing HIV negative while fitting the at-risk criteria, Blaise Clothworthy says he took it as a chance to "take ownership of protection".

Many men find it challenging to discuss their sexual health with their GP and Dr Garsing Wong says it's due to fear of potentially being judged about sexual practises.

"We know that around half of gay and bi-sexual men in New Zealand aren't out to their GP and so of course that immediately prohibits any conversations around sexual behaviour," NZ AIDS Chief Executive Jason Myers told 1 NEWS.

Pharmac has seen a steady rise in patients on 'prep' from just 199 last March to 740 in the first 12 months, but it's still a long way off the 4000 people who need it.

Mr Myers hopes that 'prep' can reach its full potential and that people who are eligible for it access it as quickly as possible.

The AIDS Foundation is crediting 'prep' with falling rates of HIV infection in the country but says more resources and education are needed across the sexual health sector.

Condoms are still seen as a front-line defence against HIV, but for those who don't use them and can't discuss sexual health with their GP, the advice is to contact their local Sexual Health Clinic, a free service run by District Health Boards nationwide.