A High Court judge has ruled NHS England can fund PrEP, a drug that prevents HIV, to gay men.
The National AIDS Trust won its case against the NHS, who argued the UK’s health provider should be able to fund the drug.
The national health provider has denied it is their responsibility to provide a drug that can help prevent the transmission of HIV.
NHS England does fund other medication to protect sexual health, such as the oral contraceptive pill.
In his judgement, Justice Green wrote: ‘No one doubts that preventative medicine makes powerful sense. But one governmental body says it has no power to provide the service and the local authorities say that they have no money.
‘The Claimant is caught between the two and the potential victims of this disagreement are those who will contract HIV [and] AIDS but who would not were the preventative policy to be fully implemented.’
He went onto conclude NHS England does have the power to commission PrEP.
Using PrEP, a once-a-day pill that will cost around £400 a month per person, has shown a very high successful rate of preventing HIV. Previous studies have suggested its success rate is more than 90% with continuous use. Sexual health charities still advise using condoms alongside PrEP.
In May, NHS England claimed it did not have the ‘legal power’ to commission PrEP’ and ‘local authorities are the responsible commissioner for HIV prevention services’.
The National AIDS Trust’s Deborah Gold said: ‘This is fantastic news. It is vindication for the many people who were let down when NHS England absolved itself of responsibility for PrEP.
‘The judgment has confirmed our view – that it is perfectly lawful for NHS England to commission PrEP. Now NHS England must do just that.
‘Over 4,000 people are getting HIV every year in the UK – we desperately need further prevention options to add to condom use. PrEP works. It saves money and it will make an enormous difference to the lives of men and women across the country who are at risk of acquiring HIV.
‘The delay to commissioning PrEP is both unethical and expensive.’
NHS England are appealing the judgement.