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NHS England backs request to double UK PrEP trial size after gay and bi men refused access to HIV-prevention drug

PrEP is still only available on the NHS in England as part of the study.

2019-01-11

NHS England has endorsed a request to double the number of places on it's current three-year PrEP trial.

The body has backed demands by researchers for the PrEP IMPACT Trial to increase the number of places on the study from 13,000 to 26,000 after demand for the HIV-prevention medication "significantly exceeded" initial predictions.

The three-year PrEP Impact Trial was launched in October 2017 to assess the impact of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medication on HIV transmission in at-risk groups, with 7000 of the 10,000 places being filled within the first eight months.

HIV groups including Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) have reported that some gay and bisexual men have been refused access to the trial, with some going on to be diagnosed with the virus.

PrEP is a type of anti-retroviral HIV drug which, when taken correctly, can prove almost 100% effective in preventing the transmission of HIV.

In a statement released on Friday (11 January), NHS England said it would commit to to funding additional places on the trial "in line with existing trial funding arrangements."

The final decision whether to extend access to PrEP to an exta 13,000 at-risk people will be made by the Programme Oversight Board next Tuesday (15 January).

Debbie Laycock, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at THT, said: "We fully support the request and welcome NHS England’s commitment to ensure that significantly more people at risk of HIV in England are able to access PrEP.

"Now every effort must be made by all parties to ensure access to these additional places happens as soon as possible because PrEP has a crucial role to play in ending new HIV infections in the UK.

"The decision now rests with the Programme Oversight Board which meets next week and we urge all players involved to act quickly to confirm the extra places and ensure they are made available locally as a matter of urgency."

Since the PrEP IMPACT Trial was launched 15 months ago, HIV transmission rates have fallen by 29 per cent among gay and bi men in London.

Campaigners are calling for PrEP to be made routinely available on the NHS, after NHS England was deemed to be responsible for provision of the drug in a 2016 High Court ruling.

Experts have estimated that giving gay and bisexual men access to HIV-preventing PrEP medication would save the NHS up to £1bn over the next 80 years.

Currently, PrEP is only available in England as part of the PrEP trial, but the drug can be purchased privately for as little as £19 a month from sites inclusing iwantprepenow.co.uk

If you're thinking of taking PrEP, you should inform your doctor and arrange regular check-ups.