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New study finds the obvious, that PrEP can be good for mental health as well as physical health

Reiss Smith November 25, 2019
HIV, Truvada, a branded version of PrEP.

Truvada, a branded version of PrEP. (Getty)

A study has found that taking PrEP can contribute to improved mental health by reducing anxiety about transmitting HIV.

Researchers at the Kirby Institute at Australia’s University of South Wales said that anxiety over acquiring HIV has affected queer men’s sexual behaviours since the AIDS crisis of the 1980s.

“We’ve known for some time that PrEP is very good at protecting people from HIV,” said co-author Phillip Keen, according to Australia’s QNews.

“This new evidence suggests that another benefit of taking PrEP is improved mental health, through reduced anxiety about HIV.”

Mental health benefits could be used to promote PrEP use.

The study analysed a national survey of more than 2,500 queer Australian men and found that among those eligible for the drug, “levels of anxiety were significantly lower among those men who were using PrEP, compared to those who were not taking it.”

PrEP is widely available in Australia and has been subsidised by the Australian government since 2018.

However, the Kirby Institute found that less than half of people deemed to be at high risk of HIV transmission are currently taking the drug.

Senior research Mohamed A Hammoud said that the findings on lowered anxiety levels should be used to inform how the drug is promoted to queer men.

“[It] could be used to support higher PrEP use in Australia,” he added.

Australia is aiming to “virtually eliminate” HIV transmissions by 2020, in part by subsidising the cost of PrEP, bringing it down to about $40 per month.

This is in stark contrast to the US, where a monthly supply of the branded pill Truvada costs $20,000 per year.

US government sues PrEP manufacturer.

The US government recently filed a lawsuit against Truvada’s manufacturer Gilead Sciences, which it claims is infringing on its own patents on PrEP.

According to the lawsuit, the drug was developed by government-funded researchers. Gilead maintains that it invented Truvada and claims to have spent more than $1 billion on research and development.

The pharma giant currently has a monopoly on the HIV-preventing drug in the US, and has long been criticised for “price gouging.”

Gilead reportedly made $3billion in sales on Truvada in 2018.

More: Australia, HIV, PrEP, Truvada, university of south wales

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