When the England PrEP IMPACT Trial opened in October 2017, there was a tidal-wave of people rushing to get one of the 10,000 places on the Trial.
Given this is the only current way of being able to get free PrEP through the NHS in England, it’s no surprise that many of the Trial’s clinics were full in under a year.
After much lobbying, advocacy and cajoling, the Trial is now set to release up to a 13,000 further places, with around half of those places being in London. If you, or someone who know, are thinking about getting on the Trial, then here are the top things you should know.
Why are we waiting?
Although up to 13,000 new trial places will become available there will still be a wait for a place for most people. Each clinic will have an allocated number of places – but will have to stagger recruitment. Why? Because few clinics will be able to cope with a big influx of trial participants all in one go.
Get on a list
There’s no central sign-up for the trial – each recruiting clinic will have their own recruitment process. Contact the clinic you usually attend and ask if they have places available. If they are full, ask to go on a waiting list, or to be contacted when new places become available. Keep asking!
If you live in a part of England with more than one trial site, there’s nothing stopping you from contacting more than one clinic and shopping around until you find a place. We’ve certainly heard of people who have put their names on several waiting lists (just take your name off the lists if you get a place). The advantage of signing-up at your local clinic? You won’t have to travel so far!
This is a Trial. So, the way of getting PrEP will be different from most of the services you get at sexual health clinics. You’ll need to take part in a short enrolment process (and sign a consent form). Then you’ll need to go back to your enrolling clinic every three months to get more PrEP. At those quarterly clinic visits you’ll be given HIV and STI tests (and treatment if you have an STI).
The Trial website has information about the Trial and details of clinics around England that are open to recruitment. PrEPster and iwantPrEPnow post regular updates on their social media – and PrEPster’s 5 Things to Know About The IMPACT Trial has more information about being on the Trial.
Don’t wait for PrEP
Finally, if you’re having sex that’s putting you at risk of getting HIV and can’t get a trial place – don’t wait for PrEP! In addition to the Trial, there are cheap ways to get PrEP safely and legally online or, if you are on a very low income, through the Terrence Higgins Trusts’s Mags Portman PrEP Access Fund. Don’t wait until it’s too late!
Dr Will Nutland is the co-founder of PrEPster. It is a programme that seeks to educate and agitate for PrEP access in England. He is also an Honorary Assistant Professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Will is a participant on the England PrEP IMPACT Trial, and a member of the Trial’s Community Advisory Board.