HIV drug should be available on NHS
A drug which has been proven to prevent HIV infections should be available on the NHS, Greater Manchester's Interim Mayor says.
Speaking ahead of World AIDS Day tomorrow, Tony Lloyd said that the UK should follow the example of France and parts of the USA by making pre-exposure prophylaxis, known as PrEP, available to those most at risk of contracting HIV.
Clinical trials in the UK have shown PrEP's effectiveness, but it isn't currently available on the NHS. PrEP is highly protective, reducing the risk of infection for men who have sex with men by 86%. An NHS England process to evaluate PrEP is underway, but any decision to provide PrEP will not be implemented until late 2016 at the earliest.
Tony said: "PrEP is a relatively new treatment but it is a major weapon in the fight to eradicate HIV. Clinical trials both here in the UK and abroad have shown that its intelligent use leads to a dramatic reduction in new HIV infections. More than that – it stops HIV in its tracks.
"The reality is that by combining the smart use of PrEP, regular testing of those most at risk of HIV, early diagnosis and treatment of HIV, and condom use, an AIDS-free world could become a reality within the next decade.
"Who would have thought, even 10 years ago, we could eradicate HIV. We know that PrEP works - the evidence is clear – and on the eve of World AIDS Day it would be a fitting time for the government to announce that it will be available on the NHS. At the very least interim arrangements should be put in place now to provide PrEP to those at the highest risk of acquiring HIV."
Rob Cookson, Deputy Chief Executive of LGBT Foundation, added: “The evidence is clear – when taken as recommended, PrEP prevents the transmission of HIV. PrEP is an important new addition to existing prevention options, including condom usage and regular testing.
“PrEP works, is urgently needed and the NHS must make it available without delay. This is now the time for us to use all of the tools at our disposal to prevent new HIV infections. By working together, we have the potential to finally eradicate HIV.”
People can take action - sign and show you’re support for earlier access to PrEP at www.prepaccess.org.uk. Tony has signed this, and will also write to the Health Secretary to urge him to make PrEP available.
Meanwhile, Tony also expressed concerns about major cuts to public health spending which will impact on sexual health promotion and sexually transmitted infection prevention.
Tony added: "It simply does not make sense that these budgets are being slashed. It puts local authorities in an impossible position, means more people will be at risk of sexually-transmitted infections, which in turn places more demand on our already-stretched health service.
“The government needs to listen to professionals and realise that these cuts are a false economy."
Tony will lead a special candlelit procession and vigil which is taking place to mark World AIDS Day. The event begins on Tuesday 1 December from 6.45pm at Sackville Gardens. For more information, visit the Manchester World AIDS Day Partnership’s facebook page