PrEP to be ‘routinely available’

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) will be made ‘routinely available’ to people at risk of contracting HIV from April. NHS England has announced it will cover the costs of the drug, having carried out a three-year study involving more than 20 000 people.

PrEP is already available in Scotland to people who are considered to be at high risk of contracting HIV.

Health secretary Matt Hancock says: ‘This will benefit tens of thousands of people’s lives and drive us towards our ambition of zero HIV transmissions in this decade.’

New diagnoses of HIV in the UK fell to their lowest level in almost two decades in 2018 (4484 people) due to the success of preventative measures including PrEP.

Ian Green, Chief Executive at Terrence Higgins Trust, one of the organisations that lead the campaign for the drug, said: ‘This is a historic day in the context of the HIV epidemic. It comes after years of fighting, campaigning and lobbying to secure a guarantee of proper access to this game-changer for HIV prevention in England.’

‘There is 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.’

According to the Terrence Higgins Trust, most recent estimates suggest there are around 103 800 people living with HIV in the UK , and around 7% of those are not aware they are HIV positive.

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