Leading HIV and LGBTI rights charities have told the NHS today: You must allow everyone to access PrEP.
Over 32 groups have united including the National AIDS Trust, THT, and Stonewall. The united front have demanded the HIV prevention drug is accessible by anyone by April 2019.
The call has come as the UK is at a tipping point in how it treats sexual health.
Transmission rates have fallen a dramatic 29% among gay and bi men in London. However, many sexual health clinics have closed.
Why the NHS needs to offer everyone PrEP
Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is a drug that, if taken daily, can almost guarantee you will not become HIV positive.
Across Britain, NHS England began a large-scale trial providing access to 10,000 people over three years.
The trial has only been going on for eight months. Over 7,000 places in the trial have been filled.
In June 2018, NHS England said it was considering adding a further 3,000 places to the trial.
The trial was called out by the united group for being ‘limited’. Trans people and BAME communities are also at risk.
‘A national PrEP program will not only meet actual need but also provide welcome assurance to those currently accessing PrEP through the IMPACT trial that they will be able to continue to access PrEP once the trial ends,’ the group states.
The statement adds: ‘NHS England must honor its commitment to commission PrEP in a national program. The trial was never proposed by NHS England as a means to only partially meet need.’
‘Without the PrEP trial I wouldn’t have been able to access PrEP’
Matthew Riley, 25, has been taking PrEP via NHS England’s IMPACT trial for six months.
He said: ‘I started PrEP after doing a lot of research. It gives me control over my sexual health. It gets rid of the shadow that HIV, as a gay man, casts over my sex life. Being more comfortable with yourself and your health essentially means healthier, better sex.
‘Financially, I wouldn’t have been able to buy PrEP for myself because I just don’t have the disposable income. Without the PrEP trial I wouldn’t have been able to access PrEP.’
Sexual health in the UK is at a ‘tipping point’
Gay Star News recently exposed how 56 Dean Street, London’s leading sexual health clinic, has slashed its bookable daily timeslots from 350 to 75.
At least five sexual health clinics have closed in London over the past two years – partly due to cuts to NHS and local authority funding. These include Lloyd Clinic in Guy’s Hospital, Riverside Health Centre in Vauxhall and Artesian Health Centre in Bermondsey, among others.
The Royal College of Nursing has warned sexual health services in the UK are at a ‘tipping point’ due to cutbacks in funding. It surveyed 600 nurses working in sexual health services and found low-morale and serious under-staffing.
Will Nutland, co-founder of PrEPster, said: ‘With almost three-quarters of trial places taken, it is imperative that we now have a road-map for implementation of routine commissioning of PrEP. We know that PrEP works: now’s the time to make sure it’s available for everyone who needs it.’