HIV Prevention Drug PrEP To Be Rolled Out Across England
PrEP, the HIV prevention drug, will finally be made fully available to those in need across England.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock made the announcement that the drug, a tablet that blocks HIV from getting into your body if you’re exposed to it, will be given to those most at risk of contracting the virus later this year.
The news comes a year after the government announced its commitment to end new HIV transmissions over the course of the next decade, and after a three-year trial that made the drug available to a limited number of people in the country.
PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is currently available in England, Scotland and Wales. However, while the drug is widely and freely available in Scotland and Wales, patients in England have had to be part of the ‘Impact Trial‘ to gain access to the drug.
The trial has recruited around 26,000 participants who were at a high risk of contracting HIV and supplied them with PrEP since it began in September 2017, but as of October 2019, at least 15 people in England have tested positive for HIV while awaiting access to the drug.
This new provision will replace the trial, meaning the drug will be uncapped across the country – something Terrence Higgins Trust, the UK’s leading HIV and sexual health charity, described as ‘an important moment in the fight against HIV’.
It will be funded with new money provided by the central government to local government, which will enable sexual health clinics to administer PrEP.
Leading PrEP advocates have welcomed the news of the roll-out of the drug, with Will Nutland, co-founder of PrEPster, ‘applauding’ the decision.
He continued, as per BuzzFeed News:
It is right that cash-strapped local authorities that are struggling to maintain levels of services in many areas, including public health, should be finally receiving additional funding to provide their component of a PrEP service.
However, others have warned more needs to be done to ensure the drug is delivered effectively to those in need of it.
Phil Samba, Strategic Lead for Queer Men of Colour, called for more awareness of the drug regime by increasing investment ‘to ensure that those who most need PrEP know about it, can access it, and – where appropriate – are supported in using it’.
Marc Thompson, co-founder of PrEPster, agreed, stating:
In addition, we support calls for robust and proper investment in our creaking sexual health services, including proper investment in clinical services, peer services, and health promotion programmes.
Campaigners have been pushing for PrEP to be more widely accessible across the country for six years, with the ‘Impact Trial’ a direct result of their efforts.
Even before the trial began, HIV infection rates had dropped by more than 30% thanks in part to supplies of PrEP being shipped in from abroad. Ever since the trial though, there has been a fall in new HIV infection rates every year since.
According to the latest available figures, diagnoses of the virus recently dropped by a further 28% to the lowest level in 20 years. What a historic day.
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