After months of waiting and unexplained delays NHS England has stated that it won’t be rolling out PrEP to the wider public, putting thousands of Men Who Have Sex with Men at continued risk.
Despite numerous trials across the world that have shown PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) to be an incredibly effective and cost effective way of preventing HIV infection in those most at risk, including the PROUD study here in the UK, it was announced today that NHS England has decided to shelve plans paving the way for wider access to PrEP.
The announcement of the public consultation of PrEP had been delayed, and was at this point was a month late, with little or no explanation prompting the twitter campaign #WhereIsPrEP.
— Terrence Higgins Trust (@THTorguk) March 19, 2016
The news has shocked and angered both the HIV sector and the affected communities, for whom this once-a-day pill could really save lives.
beyondpositive’s editor, Tom Hayes, commented:
“This news comes as a blow to both HIV negative and HIV positive people alike. The fact that there is cost effective, and provenly effective single pill out there that can stop HIV infection, but the most at risk communities are being denied access to it, is nothing less than a disgrace.
The decision by NHS England can be seen as nothing else short-term and short-sighted commissioning, they’re saving a pound now, but spending fifty later. This will only contribute to the increasing number of HIV infections in the most at risk communities, as well as alienation and disenfranchisement of men who have sex with men. We should be empowering people to make responsible and healthy decisions about their sex life. With this announcement NHS England have essentially said that they don’t care whether gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men contract HIV.
We’re calling on those with influence, within the NHS, within the government, and in the public eye to call out NHS England on this huge injustice.”
National AID Trust’s CEO, Deborah Gold, said:
“NAT shares the anger and distress felt by many thousands of people across the country at NHS England’s decision to abandon its work to provide PrEP, near the very end of the process. In a shocking U-turn, NHS England has pulled the plug on over 18 months of hard work which demonstrated the need, efficacy and cost-effectiveness of PrEP.
“Instead of a long-term policy to give PrEP to all who need it, there will be £2 million over two years for 500 gay men ‘most at risk’. The decision is not informed by any due process; the amount of money is arbitrary; the claim that more ‘testing’ of PrEP is needed is disingenuous. 500 does not remotely cover the number of gay men at high risk of HIV nor meet the needs of heterosexuals at risk. There is no clarity within the Department of Health, the NHS or Public Health England as to who long-term is responsible to commission and fund PrEP.
This is simple maladministration with serious consequences. Over 5,000 gay men will get HIV over the next two years – very many of whom would not have done so if PrEP had been delivered as proposed.
The US, Canada, France, Israel, Kenya have all made PrEP available. Faced with one of the most exciting prevention options to emerge since the HIV epidemic began, and which offers the prospect of real success in combatting this virus, the NHS has failed miserably to deliver.
We call on Ministers to intervene and reverse this deplorable decision – securing a process to provide PrEP on the basis of evidence and need.”
Ian Green, Terrence Higgins trust CEO said:
“Over 2,500 men who have sex with men are diagnosed with HIV each year in the UK. This figure has not changed in a decade. It is quite clear that although we have had some huge advances in HIV treatment, HIV prevention is something that we are still struggling with.
“By denying full availability of PrEP we are failing those who are at risk of HIV. Today’s decision by NHS England to depart with due process, and, instead, offer a tokenistic nod to what has the potential to revolutionise HIV prevention in the UK, is shameful.
“£2 million over two years for 500 gay men ‘most at risk’ is an arbitrary figure which seems ill thought out and will still deny the protection that PrEP offers to the people who most need it. We know that PrEP works and already have substantial data from a real world setting from the PROUD trial. PrEP has already been approved in the US, Kenya, Israel, Canada, France.
“And yet, our own government refuses to take responsibility for PrEP. Today’s statement makes it no clearer who is responsible – is it the Department of Health, local authorities, the NHS or Public Health England? We need answers , we need access., and we demand both.”
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