About a week ago, the NHS revealed it’s disappointing decision to not fund the HIV prevention drug PrEP.
Now Stephen Fry, who is far from shy when it comes to sharing his views, has slammed their decision to not fund the lifesaving drug. PrEP has an almost 100% success rate of preventing HIV infection from sex, and 70% chance of success from injection.
Stephen said: “I never imagined I would be alive to see the day when a pill was created that could actually prevent HIV. It is remarkable and thrilling to witness so tremendous an achievement, but deeply frustrating in equal measure to discover that our national health service has pointedly refused to provide it to people at significant risk of infection from HIV.”
Stephen is a patron of the charity Terrence Higgins Trust, who work towards the prevention of HIV infection. According to the trust, about seven men per week are infected with HIV.
This number adds up hugely in health costs, as one patient costs the NHS £1 million during their lifetime, assuming they live to old age.
Matthew Hodson, director of gay men’s health charity GMFA, had this to say: “The NHS’s decision not to ever consider commissioning PrEP is both a shock and a disappointment. Each year, thousands of gay men become infected with HIV and many of these infections could be prevented if PrEP was available.”
It becomes even more horrific when you consider that the UK has some of the worst HIV infection rates in Western Europe.
Stephen Fry was far from the only celebrity to call the NHS out on their disappointing decision, as Christian Jessen, an ambassador for National HIV Testing Week, also chimed in.
He said: “There should be no ‘controversy’. This is a drug that works. It will halt HIV, and it is cost-effective. Condom use has prevented tens of thousands of HIV infections and remains a cornerstone of HIV prevention, but it’s not enough on its own.”
Ian Green, Chief Executive of Terrence Higgins Trust, said at the time of their announcement: “Today is a shameful day for HIV prevention. This country used to lead the way in the fight against the HIV epidemic, but today, our national health service has washed its hands of one of the most stunning breakthroughs we’ve seen; a pill which, if taken correctly, is almost 100% effective in preventing HIV. A pill which is already available in America, Canada, France, Kenya and soon to be Australia.”
“How did it come to this? It defies belief that, after 18 months of false hope, delays and u-turns in the battle to see PrEP made available on the NHS to people at high risk of HIV, today we are in a worse position than when we started.It is a mess, and the people who will feel the effects are the 2,500 men who have sex with men who will be needlessly infected with HIV each year in the UK. This figure has not changed in a decade. Who will claim responsibility for the life-long impact this will have on people’s lives?”
“It’s not right that people who know themselves to be at high risk of HIV have to buy PrEP themselves from the internet at considerable personal expense. Many high risk people are living in poverty and they simply cannot afford to protect themselves against HIV. Currently, only those who can afford it are able to access this life-changing treatment, further widening the inequality gap by those most affected by HIV. The battle for PrEP must continue until the day that people at highest risk have access to this groundbreaking pill that will protect them from HIV.”