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HIV prevention drug PrEP to be made available for thousands of NHS patients from September

A new HIV prevention drug will be made available for free to thousands of NHS patients in September,

The pioneering PrEP - or pre-exposure prophylaxis - will be rolled ot to sexual health clinics in cities around the UK, including London, Manchester and Brighton, NHS England announced.

As part of a three-year trial, at least 10,000 individuals will be offered the drug through their local clinic with "high risk" patients prioritised.

The scheme is part of the initial stages of a plan to offer the drug to the public on a wider scale.

The antiretroviral drug has demonstrated success in reducing the risk of HIV in past trials. It works by preventing the disease from being able to take hold of the body if a pill is taken daily.

But studies have also shown that there are still benefits when taken before and after sex.

The announcement follows a Court of Appeal ruling in favour of the National Aids Trust. Last year the NAT challenged NHS England over their obligation to commission the preventative treatment.

The health service had argued that responsibility should fall to local authorities to pay for the drug.

With an estimated 101,200 people living with HIV in the UK, chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust Ian Green said: “We’re pleased that NHS England has announced a start date for the much anticipated PrEP trial.

"This PrEP trial has been gaining momentum in England, and is vital as we work towards ending HIV transmissions across the UK.

“The priority must now be to make sure that the trial reaches everyone at risk of HIV, and that it is rolled out speedily across the whole country, by the end of this year at the very latest. Spring 2018 is not soon enough”

“Now that the PrEP trial drug has been procured, we’re well on the way to protecting over 10,000 people at risk of HIV.

"To make sure no-one at risk of HIV is left behind, it is crucial that at the end of this trial in three years time, a clear process for routinely commissioning PrEP on the NHS is agreed.”

While there is no current means of signing up to the trial, chief executive at NAT Deborah Gold has described the move as a “pivotal moment in the fight against HIV”.

“We now need to work with NHS England, local authorities, and the sexual health sector to make sure the widest possible range of eligible people at high risk of HIV have access to the trial.”

“From September, people at high risk of HIV will have access via the NHS in England to an empowering new tool that is truly individual controlled and not subject to negotiation with a partner, leading to the improvement of many, many lives. We warmly welcome this announcement.”

The Welsh government is also performing a trial of PrEP while Scotland announced earlier this year that it had approved use of the drug by the NHS.

Africa Advocacy Foudation