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PreP : Nic Holas to host community discussion

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Writer, HIV Advocate, sex worker and co-founder of The Institute of Many (TIM) Nic Holas is coming to Perth to host a community conversation with gay men about PrEP.

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For the past two years, Nic Holas has been leading discussions about the way we view and explore our ideas and attitudes to HIV. Central to these discussions has been Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, or PrEP.

Whilst community opinions have been varied – even polarised – the science is continuing to support PrEP as an effective bio-medical prevention methodology.

Small numbers of gay men in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane already have free access to the medication through trials.

Out here in the West, with no such trials, gay men can only get PrEP through an off-label prescription, which can then be filled by a local pharmacy (cost about $11,000 -12,000 for a 12 month’s supply) or by privately importing a generic version (cost about $1,300).

Following an Operational Directive published by the WA Department of Health in July, government HIV specialists are encouraged to offer PrEP to patients who meet specific guidelines.

The Kirby Institute estimate that of around 8,000 homosexually active men in WA, approximately 1,200 would meet these guidelines. However anecdotal evidence suggests that currently there have been less than 20 prescriptions.

So, PrEP works, the Department of Health supports and recommends it in appropriate circumstances and gay men want it … so why the fuck isn’t it freely available?

And, why are gay men out East agitating and advocating, while we out West stay seemingly quiet? How many new HIV infections happened last month that might have been avoided by PrEP?

What about the arguments against PrEP? Will we see a rising tide of STIs as condom use declines?

If some gay men forget to wear a condom even when they planned to, why will they remember to take the pill?

To help the community find answers to these and other questions, Nic Holas is hosting a sero-neutral conversation; PrEP: Who Gives a Fuck.

Just as important as finding answers, is for voices and opinions in the community to be aired. Nic plans an open and honest dialogue that crucially includes those who are living with HIV as well as those who are HIV negative; sero-neutrality.

“We need to keep talking,” says Nic. “I don’t want you to come around to my way of thinking. I just want us to keep talking. Be brave, be yourself, and don’t just tow the party line (whatever school of thought you subscribe to). HIV cannot fall back off the agenda; we owe it to ourselves, to the men who made it through the epidemic, the ones we lost, and the young men just joining us. We need each other, regardless of differences.”

Not since the fight to get full access to anti-retroviral medicines back in the mid 90’s has there been such an important issue that is directly impacting the rights of all gay and homosexually active men to effective and potentially life-saving treatments. Be there to be sure your voice is heard!

PrEP: Who Gives a Fuck? – a sero-neutral conversation with Nic Holas, Tuesday 24 November  6.30pm – 9pm, Lotteries West House, 2 Delhi Street, West Perth

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