The NHS has scrapped plans to make PrEP, a drug vital for HIV prevention, available.
This decision was quite the surprise to both health charities and politicians, but the NHS has said following 18 months of consideration they won’t fund Truvada in a majority of cases.
Their reasoning was that “NHS England is not responsible for commissioning prevention services.”
This doesn’t exactly fly true, however, as the NHS does fund other medication to protect sexual health and prevent pregnancy, such as the oral contraceptive pill.
Chief executive of the National AIDS Trust, Deborah Gold, had this to say: “NAT shares the anger and distress felt by many thousands of people across the country at NHS England’s decision to abandon its work to provide PrEP, near the end of the process. In a shocking U-turn, NHS England has pulled the plug on over 18 months of hard work which demonstrated the need, efficacy and the cost-effectiveness of PrEP.”
This is particularly frustrating because the NHS recently conducted a study on PrEP, which found that if it’s taken correctly it’s highly effective in preventing HIV.
Ian Green, Terrence Higgins Trust CEO, said: “Over 2,500 men who have sex with men are diagnosed with HIV each year in the UK. This figure has not changed in a decade. It is quite clear that although we have had some huge advances in HIV treatment, HIV prevention is something that we are still struggling with.”
The NHS has said that it would invest £2 million protecting 500 men at ‘high risk of HIV infection’, in further tests.
Deborah Gold went on to say: “This is simple maladministration with serious consequences. Over 5,000 gay men will get HIV over the next two years – very many of whom would not have done so if PrEP had been delivered as proposed.”
The decision by the NHS has been slammed by politicians on both sides of the fence, with Sadiq Khan of Labour calling it a “terrible decision” and Zac Goldsmith for the Conservatives calling it an “avoidable non-brainer”.
It also seems an even more strange and short sighted decision when you remember that the US, Canada, France, Israel and Kenya have all made PrEP available in some way.