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Plans for PrEP treatment for HIV dropped

Charities criticise decision to shelve ‘game changer’ for HIV

Adrian O'Dowd

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Charities have condemned a decision by NHS England to drop its plans to hold a public consultation on PrEP – a HIV prevention drug, proven to be effective in stopping HIV transmission – becoming available on the NHS.

NHS England said in a statement that NHS England was “not responsible for commissioning HIV prevention services” but was committed to working with local authorities, Public Health England, the Department of Health and other stakeholders as further consideration was given to making PrEP (Pre Exposure Prophylaxis) available.

The announcement was unexpected as charities and sexual health services had been expecting structured plans for PrEP availability on the NHS and the announcement of the first ever public consultation on PrEP for HIV prevention in the UK.

NHE England has said there will not be a public consultation but committed to making up to £2m available over the next two years to run a number of early implementer test sites.

“These will be undertaken in conjunction with Public Health England and will seek to answer the remaining questions around how PrEP could be commissioned in the most cost effective and integrated way to reduce HIV and sexually transmitted infections in those at highest risk,” said NHS England’s statement.

The Terrence Higgins Trust said it was shocked at the development and its chief executive Ian Green 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.

“£2m 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. The public consultation would have been one of the final steps before a decision is made on NHS availability for the HIV game changer.”

Deborah Gold, chief executive of the National AIDS Trust (NAT), 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.

“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.”

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