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Those at risk of HIV to be offered PrEP drugs in England and Northern Ireland

Published on 27/07/18 at 09:58am
Image Credit: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

Those at risk of contracting HIV will now be offered PrEP drugs in England and Northern Ireland through a programme launched by the HIV and sexual health charity the Terrence Higgins Trust.

The Terrence Higgins Trust is to launch the PrEP Access Fund this autumn which will offer vouchers for the antiviral drugs to 1000 people in England and Northern Ireland who cannot afford to buy PrEP themselves. The vouchers will support those on low or no income who are at risk of contracting HIV.

While the drugs are currently available on the NHS in Scotland they are given to patients in Wales as part of an unlimited trial. However while NHS England is currently running a limited impact trial which began in 2017 and is set to run until 2020 the programme only covers 10,000 people. Furthermore, there are no measures to protect patients in Northern Ireland.

As of now, PrEP drugs are also available for sale online. However, the HIV preventative drugs costs approximately £400 a month in the United Kingdom.  As reiterated by Terrence Higgins Trust CEO Ian Green, who announced the launch of the new fund at the 22nd annual International AIDS Conference on Thursday morning: “Many individuals just do not have the money to [buy PrEP privately].”

The Terrence Higgins Trust CEO was also critical of the NHS in stating: “The fact that a charity is having to step in to fund PrEP access to those in most financial need is an embarrassment, and demonstrates the crucial need for NHS England, local authorities in England and Health and Social Care Northern Ireland to act now. People who are being denied access to PrEP and who are unable to afford it are being put at risk of contracting HIV, which is completely unacceptable.”

Applicants to the Access Fund, which will provide vouchers for three months’ worth of the protective drugs, must be aged 16 or over, HIV negative, residing in England or Northern Ireland, clinically eligible for PrEP by BHIVA/BASHH standards and will have to evidence the fact they are on low or no income.

Louis Goss

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