The World Health Organisation’s decision to recommend that gay men should consider using antiretroviral drugs as an additional method against HIV has been welcomed by Public Health England (PHE).

The health agency is currently co-sponsoring a study into whether the drugs should be made available on the NHS – as part of routine HIV prevention efforts.

Last Friday, the WHO stated gay men should consider using Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) as an additional method of preventing HIV infection alongside the use of condoms.

The announcement generated a mixed response. Journalist Patrick McAleenan feared such a sweeping statement could stigmatise gay men and undermine condom use.

However, other health campaigners welcomed the WHO’s intervention, viewing it as a watershed moment in the debate on HIV prevention.

On Thursday, Professor Noel Gill, head of the HIV and STI department at Public Health England, said: “We welcome the recent WHO endorsement for HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP).

“Several international studies have shown that PrEP is highly effective at reducing HIV infection risk. As part of PHE’s commitment to tackling the HIV epidemic, we are co-sponsoring the PROUD study to provide evidence on the clinical and cost-effectiveness of PrEP in the UK.”

Five hundred participants have enrolled on the PROUD study. It will last for two years.