HIV drug PrEP available across England

Author: Jo Carlowe

The HIV drug PrEP is to be routinely available across England in a bid to end HIV transmission by 2030.

Local authorities will receive £16 million in 2020 to 2021 to deliver the preventative HIV treatment PrEP.

The funding from the Department of Health and Social Care will ensure anyone who is at a high risk of contracting HIV will receive PrEP from their local sexual health clinic to reduce their risk of getting the virus.

When taken daily, PrEP is highly effective at preventing HIV transmission from sex or injection drug use. Studies have shown that PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99% when taken daily.

PrEP is currently available in England through the three-year PrEP impact trial, which has recruited over 20,000 participants. The new £16 million funding will also enable people on the trial to continue to use PrEP when the trial ends.

An estimated 103,800 people were living with HIV in the UK in 2018, with 7,500 of those unaware of their infection. Figures show that HIV transmissions in gay and bisexual men have fallen by 71.4% since 2014.

In January 2019, the government committed to reaching zero HIV transmissions by 2030.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I remember when HIV was a death sentence – and still today, it has a devastating impact on so many lives across the country.

“While it is encouraging to see HIV transmissions continue to fall across the UK, I am determined to do more, and end HIV transmission. So we are rolling out PrEP and making it available across the country – with evidence showing it almost completely eradicates the chances of getting HIV. This will benefit tens of thousands of people’s lives, and drive us towards our ambition of zero HIV transmissions in this decade.”

Professor Noel Gill, Head of STIs and HIV at Public Health England, said: “The combination of condom use, expanded HIV testing, prompt treatment and PrEP is working in the UK, leading to steep declines in HIV transmission, especially in gay men.

“The goal of eliminating HIV transmission by 2030 depends on making PrEP readily available to all at higher risk of acquiring HIV. When taken consistently, PrEP is highly effective at protecting against HIV.”

Ian Green, chief executive at Terrence Higgins Trust, described the decision as “a historic day in the context of the HIV epidemic”.

“It’s a real moment to stop and celebrate a hard-fought victory for PrEP access in England. Today comes at the end of years of fighting, campaigning and lobbying to ensure proper access to this game-changer for HIV prevention. We know PrEP is highly effective at stopping HIV and now it can be properly utilised to make good on the Government’s commitment to ending HIV transmissions by 2030,” he said.

By the end of October 2020 access to PrEP through the PrEP Impact Trial is set to conclude and so the rollout will make the service available by routine commissioning for those who need it.