The Federal government has announced it will list an effective HIV prevention drug on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), starting April 1.

Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed the news on Tuesday 21st March, that pre-exposure prophylaxis medicine, known as PrEP, would be government subsidised from next month.

HIV advocates have welcomed the move as an important step forward for Australia in becoming one of the first countries in the world to eliminate the transmission of HIV nationally.

Professor Darrell O Donnell, the CEO of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations, says the move will change people’s lives.

“There is absolutely no doubt that PrEP is a game changer for Australia’s response to HIV. With the introduction of PrEP, we’re absolutely certain that we will be able to drive rates of HIV in this country to very, very low levels,” he said.

However, there is a need to ensure the news is also shared with people from culturally diverse backgrounds, according to Barbara Luisi, manager of the MHAHS.

“People from diverse backgrounds need to be aware of this important announcement as many are unaware of what PrEP is. Some may be aware, but hesitant about it and fearful that taking it would stigmatise them in their community,” said Ms Luisi.

PrEP is a once-daily pill that is considered to be 99% effective at preventing new HIV diagnoses when used properly.

Click here for information about PrEP in different languages.
The MHAHS joined a host of services last week to welcome international students at a reception organised by the City of Sydney. Held at the Sydney Town Hall, close to 1,000 students from more than 60 nations attended the ceremony.

Galuh Sapthari, project officer for the MHAHS International Student Project, was thrilled to attend the ceremony.
 
“It was a great opportunity for us to meet with so many students and introduce our work. It was also great to meet with the Lord Mayor and so many other services all of whom want to see our international student community prosper. I welcome their focus on the health and wellbeing of the students and appreciate their interest in how our project will  engage with them in the months ahead,” said Galuh.

Galuh organised an information stall to distribute various HIV resources to the students and was supported by our Community Engagement Officer, Wa'el Sabri and Health Promotion Officer, Natali Smud.

The International Student Project aims to raise awareness of contemporary HIV testing, prevention and treatment options among overseas students studying in NSW. It encourages international students to seek free help from relevant HIV services if they feel they are at risk while studying in NSW.

For more project details, contact Galuh Sapthari on 9515 1234 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
African communities are responding positively to our Hepatitis B Project.

The project, which started early this year in response to the prevailing epidemic, has identified a series of strategies to engage African communities in addressing the issue.

“The early response has been very encouraging, despite some challenges,” said Lucy Mukoko, project officer from the Multicultural HIV and Hepatitis Service (MHAHS).

“There is a lack of awareness about hepatitis B in our communities, so often it’s not taken seriously. Now that we’ve gained the support of some key people in our communities, we are starting to see more interest and are getting requests for more education sessions. This is very exciting, but we still have a long way to go before we have full hepatitis B awareness.”

Successful education sessions have been organised with Sierra Leonian and Ethiopian communities recently and more workshops are planned for the Zimbabwean and other communities in the coming months.

For more information about the workshops and the African Hepatitis B Project, please contact Lucy Mukoko on 95151234 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The SCOTS College English language school, in collaboration with the MHAHS, held HIV information sessions for more than 300 students at its City campus this week.

The sessions were aimed at providing students with accurate and appropriate information about HIV, according to the MHAHS International Student Project Officer, Gula Sapthari.

“Around the world, lack of appropriate information is often one of the reasons why people remain unaware of HIV. Health interventions through education providers often have a large reach. We hope our initiative will help reach what is still largely an isolated and vulnerable student population,” Ms Sapthari said.

Four concurrent sessions were held in the morning and evening at the school with students assigned different groups depending on their English proficiency. MHAHS educators led the sessions and encouraged students to ask questions about the epidemic.

School Director, Joe Lynch said: “the sessions were an important opportunity for students to practice their English language skills as well as discuss what is still a taboo topic in many culturally diverse communities. Understanding HIV testing, treatment and prevention can only help improve students’ access to these key services.”

Evaluation suggested the students found the sessions highly engaging with many calling the sessions “honest”, “excellent” and “useful” as well as thanking the organisers for inviting people living with HIV to share their powerful experiences.

The International Student Project aims to  raise awareness of contemporary HIV testing, prevention and treatment options among overseas students studying in NSW. It encourages international students to seek free help from relevant HIV services if they feel they are at risk while studying in NSW.

For more project details, contact Gula Sapthari on 9515 1234 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.