It’s taken a long time and a trial that limited the number of people who could access the revolutionary drug that halts the spread of HIV, but PrEP is finally available to those who need it in England.
The PrEP trial originally allowed for 10,000 patients to take PrEP, it was extended to 26,000, but it still wasn’t enough meaning that there were long waiting lists and some clinics paused the trial for gay and bisexual men.
The Department of Health will be providing funds to make PrEP available via sexual health clinics. The Government will make £16m available to local authorities to deliver PrEP to those “who need it most” according to a statement released by DoH.
Matt Hancock, the UK’s Health Secretary said,
“I remember when HIV was a death sentence – and still today, it has a devastating impact on so many lives across the country.
While it is encouraging to see HIV transmissions continue to fall across the UK, I am determined to do more, and end HIV transmission.
So we are rolling out PrEP and making it available across the country – with evidence showing it almost completely eradicates the chances of getting HIV. This will benefit tens of thousands of people’s lives, and drive us towards our ambition of zero HIV transmissions in this decade”.
Speaking about the announcement, Ian Green, the Chief Executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, the UK’s biggest HIV charity, said that it was an “important day” and that it came “after years of fighting, campaigning and lobbying to secure a guarantee of proper access to this game-changer for HIV prevention in England”.
He continued, “We know PrEP is highly effective at stopping HIV and now it can be properly utilised to make good on the Government’s commitment to ending HIV transmissions by 2030”.
“We understand that COVID-19 is putting pressure on all parts of our health service. However, despite today’s announcement, we are facing an imminent and unacceptable gap on PrEP access in England. We know of instances where people waiting for PrEP have contracted HIV, which unacceptable and cannot continue. Immediate work needs to take place with clinics which are currently at capacity for gay and bisexual men and a timetable must be set out for when uncapped access will be made available across all parts of England.
“Like everything that’s been achieved since the start of the HIV epidemic this commitment on uncapped PrEP access has been hard fought for. We would like to pay tribute to everyone who has raised a placard, written to their MP, campaigned on social media and helped to move us to where we are today. It’s amazing what can be achieved by HIV organisations and activists working together.
’Today’s announcement also underlines the urgency for the Government to release details for local authority public health budget for the delivery of vital sexual health services from April – which is now a matter of weeks away. These sexual health services will be the bedrock for fair and equitable access to PrEP.”
There must be a ‘seamless transition from trial to full provision’
On the challenges ahead, Green added,
‘This isn’t the end of what’s already been a very bumpy road and we will continue to strongly hold the Government to account on its promises and timetable to ensure consistency of access for PrEP users. That’s because there must be a seamless transition from the trial and no gap in PrEP provision for those who are accessing it.
‘There is also a lot of work to do to ensure PrEP isn’t just seen as something for gay and bisexual men and that its clear benefits reach other groups affected by HIV, including women, trans people and BAME communities. As the country’s leading HIV and sexual health charity, we’re fully committed to playing our role to ensure no-one is left behind when it comes to PrEP because we’re not making real progress if it’s not felt by everyone.’