The three main political party leaders in the UK have all praised the HIV prevention drug PrEP.
David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband were all asked about their support for PrEP during a Q&A for GT (Gay Times) Magazine. The drug is taken before sex to reduce the risk of getting HIV.
They were asked: “Do you agree with the National AIDS Trust and other charities that PrEP should be made available on the NHS to gay men who need it as soon as possible?”
Prime Minister David Cameron, despite saying he supported the idea of looking into the drug in principle, said the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence would need to make the decision on whether it should be available on the NHS.
He said: “I think it’s fantastic that over the course of the last 30 years, AIDS has gone from being a very serious and fatal disease to one that can be treated – and is now on the cusp of being one that can be prevented. Too many people have lost loved ones and seen friends and families suffer from AIDS, so it’s right that we look very carefully at PrEP. However decisions on individual drug availability are made by the independent National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and not politicians – so it’d be inappropriate of me to prejudge their decision.”
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, added: “The NHS is looking. We’ve had these studies and tests – like the PROUD Study – which appears to have confirmed the clinical effect of the drug in terms of preventing HIV. But the NHS now, quire rightly, is looking at what this actually means. Would it be clinically prescribed? And to who? And for what periods of time? Is it a one-off prescription or is it an ongoing thing? That’s all being looked into at the moment.
“PrEP sounds like a fantastic medical innovation which can keep people safe from HIV infection, but of course, what we wouldn’t want is for people to take it and risk contracting other illnesses and infection because they practice less protected sex. I don’t think we should, under any circumstances, regard any drug as a sort of wonder drug that suddenly means all risk is removed. But at the end of the day, it’s up to the NHS to look at the studies and work things out as they so publicly need to be worked out.”
And Ed Miliband, the leader of the opposition, also gave his support, saying: “The recent medical evidence that’s come out about PrEP is obviously very positive – it’s a positive step forward. And it could make a real difference. There’s obviously proper clinical processes that we’ve got to go through, with the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), to look at this. I’m obviously sympathetic, and the evidence is incredibly encouraging, but this has got to be led medically.”
The move was welcomed by HIV charity the Terrence Higgins Trust (THT).
Dr Rosemary Gillespie, Chief Executive at THT said: “This cross-party support for PrEP goes to show just how seriously PrEP is being taken as a vital tool in our efforts to reduce HIV transmission in the UK. We need to turn these positive words into action so PrEP can be made available on the NHS for those most at risk as soon as possible.”