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‘Postcode lottery’ is stopping people getting PrEP in England

‘Postcode lottery’ is stopping people getting PrEP in England

A man holds a PrEP (Truvada) pill to prevent acquiring HIV

HIV advocates say England is facing an ’emergency’ if more people cannot access PrEP.

This comes as England’s National Health Service (NHS) recommended removing caps on PrEP trials in the country.

NHS England announced five steps to create better access to the HIV prevention drug PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis).

One of its recommendations included removing the capped number of places on the ongoing IMPACT Trial.

NHS England’s chief executive, Simon Stevens, met with representatives of HIV organizations and advocacy groups. Those groups included NAT (National AIDS Trust), Terrence Higgins Trust, and PrEPster.

It sent the group a letter outlining its five steps to increasing PrEP.

‘The steps NHS England have outlined are extremely welcome ones, but there remain serious barriers to getting PrEP to those who need it,’ said Deborah Gold, NAT’s chief executive.

‘We need the Department of Health and Social Care to commit the necessary funding for routine commissioning as planning for this begins in earnest.’

The other points in NHS England’s letter included that the Chelsea and Westminster hospital will reopen its PrEP enrolment clinic. This will open up 1,500 places in the trial.

It has confirmed local authorities will pick up the remaining 40% of places in the trial. The letter also said NHS England planned to reopen PrEP Impact Trial places at small clinics outside of London.

Finally, it said it would work with the Department of Health and Social Care ‘to ensure a seamless transition from trial to routine commissioning arrangements’.

Postcode lottery

‘Local authorities are running sexual health services with a disappearing pool of public health funding,’ Gold said.

‘Sexual Health services are struggling. Nevertheless we are facing an emergency.

‘People are getting HIV because of the shambolic postcode lottery that limits PrEP access; local authorities need to rise to the challenge of being able to provide it.’

Gold argued that IMPACT Trial researchers should support the ‘obvious argument that a trial designed to answer questions about implementing a new drug will only give meaningful results if data isn’t artificially deflated with a capped number of participants.’

‘Currently, people are being diagnosed with HIV while they wait for PrEP to become available in their area – for those people it is too late for PrEP,’ Gold said.

‘This is unacceptable. NAT will remain at the forefront of the fight for this game-changing drug.’

Last week the UK government delivered an update on its LGBT Action Plan, which included doubling the number of places for the PrEP Impact Trial.