The game-changing HIV preventative Pre Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) should be introduced ‘today and not tomorrow’, according to the leading figure in the LGBT Foundation.
The decision to shelve a public consultation into the drug was met with dismay in March, forcing the NHS to reconsider its position once again.
This month’s change of heart has renewed optimism that the drug could soon become available – with many hopeful it could revolutionise treatment, with research from the Medical research Council suggesting the drug could have an 86% success rate in protecting people from HIV.
Rob Cookson, Deputy Chief Executive of the LGBT Foundation, told MM that while he is ‘encouraged’ by the NHS’ new stance, ‘there is no reason for delay’ in making it available.
“We are extremely encouraged by this opportunity for NHS to reconsider its decision on PrEP,” he said.
“PrEP should be seen as an important new addition to add to other forms of prevention, such as regular use of condoms and HIV & sexual health testing.
“With over 2500 men who have sex with men diagnosed each year in the UK, HIV remains a critical issue. PrEP can, and should play its part in helping reduce HIV infections.
“The England-wide trial PROUD Study demonstrated that PrEP is 86% effective in preventing HIV transmission.
“There is no reason for delay, PrEP needs to happen today, not tomorrow.”
Frustration with accessing the drug has grown due to its availability in several other countries, with America, France, Israel and Kenya all having access to it.
The daily pill, made up of a combination of two HIV medicines, tenofovir and emtricitabine, is seen to be the most effective preventative in cases of men who have condomless sex with multiple partners.
Stephanie Mallas, Joint Chief Executive of the George House Trust HIV support organisation, told MM that rolling out the drug would prove cost effective in the long run.
“We are in favour of the widespread availability of PrEP on the very simple basis that the research evidence indicates that it works in terms of preventing HIV transmission,” she said.
“We believe it to be cost effective, bearing in mind the long term costs to the NHS of providing care to someone living with HIV.”
Stats show that over 2,500 men who have sex with men are diagnosed with HIV every year, which means that every day that access to PrEP is delayed seven men will be struck by the disease.
The potential of a U-turn by the NHS has been greeted with relief, but organizations like the LGBT foundation are aware the fight is not yet over.
“It is vital that community voices continue to be loud on this important issue,” said Mr Cookson.
“We thank everyone who has played their part in encouraging the NHS to have this rethink, and we will continue to play our part in keeping PrEP in the spotlight.”
Image courtesy of Youreka Science, via YouTube, with thanks