We discussed recently how the NHS’ decision not to fund the HIV prevention drug PrEP was overthrown by a high court, but it seems it doesn’t end there.
Now there are serious questions being raised over a statement that the NHS provided on the drug, which may have fed the numerous negative stories which surfaced about it.
The National Union of Journalists said that last week’s coverage of the high court’s decision fell below standards, with numerous scaremongering articles popping up. For example, the Daily Mail (hardly the pinnacle of journalism) said that PrEP is a “promiscuity pill” and Channel 5’s Wright Show called it “a free £20m drug for gays who won’t use condoms”.
HIV groups have pointed to a statement made by the NHS in the wake of the ruling, which said: “PrEP is a way of using anti-retroviral drugs – usually used for treating people with diagnosed HIV- to stop viral transmission. Evidence of effectiveness is strongest for men who do not use condoms in sex with multiple male partners.”
They also made a statement on August 3 which said: ““PrEP is a measure to prevent HIV transmission, particularly for men who have high risk condomless sex with multiple male partners.”
Ian Green, Chief Executive of Terrence Higgins Trust criticised this language in a letter to NHS England’s Chief Executive Simon Stevens.
Ian Wrote: “Singling out gay men who do not use condoms is intentionally provocative, homophobic, offensive and inaccurate. This along with the statement that ‘given the ruling NHS England cannot now confirm funding for those treatments and services in levels three and four’ is disgraceful and irresponsible. I need to remind you that the only reason CPAG was not able to prioritise new drugs and therapies at their last meeting was due to the arbitrary decision to stop the approval process for PrEP.”
“The only purpose of the above statement is to pit one patient group against another. The results can been seen in the sensationalist, moralistic headlines and homophobic statements being made in the UK press. It is unacceptable for the National Health Service to misrepresent the facts and to portray gay men in this judgemental way.”
“PrEP is not a moral issue. PrEP is a treatment which can stop a population with ongoing major health inequalities from contracting a life threatening disease with lifetime treatment costs of up to £380,000. That is all and it should be treated as such. I strongly urge you as Chief Executive of NHS England to authorise this statement to be withdrawn and a new release issued which deals with the topic in an appropriate manner.”
The NHS will issue a response soon, so keep your eyes peeled!