No small victory for PrEP

Monday 05-12-2016 - 15:22

NHS England have announced that after months of lobbying they will be commissioning PrEP, a drug which stops HIV from taking hold in the body and greatly reduces the chance of infection.

A few months ago I wrote to you all about the ongoing battle with NHS England to get PrEP provided on the NHS. Well today I write with better news, over the weekend NHS England announced they will be following in the footsteps of countries like France, Canada and Israel in providing PrEP to people who are at high risk of contracting HIV.


Initially, the drug will be provided in a three year long clinical trial which will include at least 10,000 people across England. This will ensure that in 2020 when PrEP is rolled out country-wide, it is done in the most effective way. Hopefully, the decision by NHS England will see Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland also make the decision to provide PrEP.


Since the 1970s we have seen infection rates rise, with estimate numbers today suggesting that there are around 103,700 people living with HIV in the UK today. With 17 people being diagnosed with HIV every day, thats roughly 6,000 every year. Hopefully, with the commissioning of PrEP, we will see these numbers dramatically reduce over the next few years.


It’s incredible that finally, in the fourth decade of this critical issue, we are starting to see real progress, not just in combatting HIV, but also in attitudes towards it. It’s hard to imagine NHS England making the decision to provide this drug if it had been discovered soon after 1971 when the first person in the UK was diagnosed with HIV, because of the stigma surrounding the illness.


This commissioning of PrEP has come with no small amount of pressure and lobbying from a number of organisations. National AIDS Trust mounted a court case arguing that the NHS had the ability to provide PrEP, which they won. Although NHS England then decided to challenge this decision. It was only in recent weeks that the court of appeal found that the NHS did have the capacity to provide PrEP.

Lobbying also took the form of filling out en masse the consultation which NHS England opened earlier this year. The numerous positive responses they received had no small part to play in their decision to provide PrEP, of that I’m sure. We showed overwhelming support for PrEP and that the divisive nature in which NHS England pitted one group of patients against each other would not be tolerated. So all of those who filled out the consultation - thank you.


Let’s celebrate this victory for our community and the power we have evoked. Let’s take stock and consider the effectiveness of lobbying. Finally let’s use that power once again to fight for positive change, like scrapping the blood ban and the introduction of inclusive, compulsory sex and relationship education across the board. Watch this space!


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