Access to the HIV prevention drug PrEP is being hampered by clinic appointment access, according to new research launched today by PrEPster at The Love Tank.
HIV PrEP – provided by the NHS since 2020 in England – has been described as “a game changer” with incidence of HIV in key groups falling by over two-thirds since its widespread introduction.
Yet a new report launched today – Understanding the PrEP and Sexual Health Needs and Experiences of Young Gay Men in London – says that gay and bisexual men in London who are under 25 are failing to make full use of PrEP because of the lack of availability of sexual health clinics appointments.
The Love Tank is calling for a series of actions in response to the research, including a central online London clinic booking system so people can find the most available appointment to them, and more investment in and promotion of online STI and HIV testing, and for PrEP to be available online.
Additionally, The Love Tank is calling for investment in all sexual health services, so that clinics aren’t overstretched and staff can focus on those who most need care, plus outreach to communities who don’t know enough about PrEP.
“Still too many barriers”
Dr Benjamin Weil, the report’s author said in a statement: “Our research shows that HIV PrEP is highly valued among those who know about it but there are still too many barriers to accessing it. Chief among these is the difficulty getting an appointment at sexual health clinics. This is even harder if you aren’t as familiar with how clinics work – for instance, if you are younger or have recently arrived to the UK.”
Dr Will Nutland, co-director of The Love Tank added: “These findings reinforce other recent research: if we’re to make the most of current HIV prevention tools, the systems for accessing them need to be fit for purpose. We need to see proper investment in sexual health services and moves to modernise the ways that communities can access those services.”
Deborah Gold, Chief Executive of National AIDS Trust said: “This research from The Love Tank points towards the clear need to create more equitable PrEP access for all. With a lack of available appointments and different booking systems between clinics, accessing PrEP can be enormously complicated to navigate. If we are serious about reducing HIV transmissions, we must prioritise making sure everyone who can benefit from PrEP knows about it, alongside simplifying and streamlining the appointment booking process.”