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HIV preventive treatment will not be offered in England

NHS England says that the treatment falls outside its remit

Ingrid Torjesen

Wednesday, 01 June 2016

NHS England’s specialised services committee yesterday confirmed that pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a treatment which can dramatically reduce risk of HIV infection, will not be offered on the NHS, NHS England has been confirmed.

NHS England said the committee had “considered and accepted NHS England’s external legal advice that it does not have the legal power to commission PrEP” as local authorities are the responsible commissioner for HIV prevention services.

It acknowledged: “The Secretary of State could delegate the power to commission PrEP to NHS England,” but added that “this would need to be accompanied by appropriate funding”.

PrEP, ususally prescribed as a daily pill, has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection by up to 86% in men who do not use condoms in sex with multiple male partners.

Ian Green, chief executive of Terrence Higgins Trust, called the decision “shameful”. “This country used to lead the way in the fight against the HIV epidemic, but today, our national health service has washed its hands of one of the most stunning breakthroughs we’ve seen; a pill which, if taken correctly, is almost 100 per cent effective in preventing HIV. A pill which is already available in America, Canada, France, Kenya and soon to be Australia.”

He added: “The people who will feel the effects are the 2,500 men who have sex with men who will be needlessly infected with HIV each year in the UK.”

A spokesperson for the Local Government Association said: “This is hugely disappointing and a missed opportunity to launch a ground-breaking method of treatment which could halt the spread of HIV and potentially save lives.

“Councils have invested millions in providing sexual health services since taking over responsibility for public health three years ago, and the PrEP treatment could help reduce levels of HIV in the community.

“During the transition period to the implementation of the NHS and Care Act 2010, NHS England sought to retain commissioning of HIV therapeutics, which the PrEP treatment clearly falls into. It is, and should remain, an NHS responsibility unless it is fully funded for local authorities to pass on.

“Councils are already having to manage significant funding reductions to their public health budgets of £500 million over five years and NHS England’s decision not to commission PrEP will only heap more pressure on public health services.”

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