England finally allows unlimited access to PrEP on NHS


PrEP on NHS
Image: Terence Higgins Trust/Twitter

After five long years of argument, the British government will finally allow anyone at risk of contracting HIV to access PrEP on the NHS (National Health Service).

Previously only 20,000 at-risk persons could access the medication under a trial which began in 2017. Even before that trial began Scotland already introduced PrEP free of charge for those at the highest risk of acquiring HIV.

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The NHS previously argued against a PrEP rollout because of the cost. However, campaigners for PrEP argue that cost is far less than for a lifetime of HIV treatment.

But Health Secretary Matt Hancock has now announced that from April the government will provide funding to provide PrEP to those most at risk of HIV. That list includes gay and bisexual men, intravenous drug users and sex workers.

Hancock’s announcement comes a year after he pledged Britain would become “one of the first countries to reach the UN zero infections target by 2030.”

He now says the rollout of PrEP will eliminate new HIV infections within 10 years.

The UK does already meet the gold standard of national HIV management known as 90-90-90. Under that standard, 90% of people with the virus have been diagnosed. Additionally, over 90% of people diagnosed, now receive treatment with medication. Finally, of those, over 90% are fully virally suppressed.

Sir Elton John

After years of campaigning for PrEP, entertainer and AIDS activist Sir Elton John described himself as ‘overjoyed’ at the rollout. He told the Sunday Times “Taking PrEP prevents HIV from being passed on, which is truly incredible,”

Ian Green, Chief Executive at the Terrence Higgins Trust, described the decision as a ‘game-changer’.

Australia approved PrEP on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme two years ago.

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