This might be the most offensive headline about PrEP so far
As fierce debate rages about HIV-preventing PrEP drugs, this might be the most offensive headline yet.
Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) drug Truvada can reduce people’s chances of being infected with HIV by up to 92-99 percent if taken daily.
The drug is endorsed by the World Health Organisation and is available in a number of countries to at-risk groups including sex workers, gay men, and people in serodiscordant relationships.
Health experts say rolling out PrEP in the UK would be cost-effective if it leads to even a small reduction in HIV infections, as the lifetime cost of just one HIV infection can be up to £380,000.
NHS England had declined to make a decision on the drugs earlier this year, suggesting it was up to local councils – but the High Court yesterday ruled that NHS England is indeed responsible for commissioning the drugs after a challenge from an HIV charity.
After the Daily Mail and Times both splashed stories attacking PrEP, Channel 5 show The Wright Stuff featured one of the worst headlines on the subject yet.
The show featured a discussion under the headline: “FREE £20M HIV DRUG FOR GAYS WHO WON’T USE CONDOMS?”
In a Facebook post, the show questioned if the NHS should “blow £20m on an HIV drug for gay men who won’t use condoms”.
It claimed: “PrEP, at a cost £5,000 per man per year even though patients could protect their health for pennies using condoms.”
PrEP costs less than £500 per year if generic drugs are used.
A number of viewers attacked the show’s stance on the subject.
Several viewers suggested the headline was like something out of the 1980s, with one writing: “I’m disgusted at the words used here to imply that gay men are the only ones who can catch HIV and are careless with their behaviour.
“Let me remind The Wright Stuff that there is NO same-sex education in schools.
“We send our young out into adulthood very vulnerable and not aware of the risks. PrEP could end HIV in a generation. It’s more than ‘won’t use condoms’.”
Another added: “There are plenty of straight people who won’t use condoms who are just as likely to spread HIV so why are we /still/ blaming this on gay people?”
A third said: “Disgusting headline. We have to remember no one in their right mind would choose to be infected with HIV. Any life saved is worth it.”
One viewer wrote: “You said ‘contraceptive pill for HIV’ – there is a contraceptive pill to prevent pregnancy, no-one moans that women’s partners don’t want to wear a condom, so why not a pill to prevent HIV?”
Mr Wright insisted the show was “fair and balanced”, describing PinkNews as “trash” for reporting the complaints made by his viewers.
Channel 5 did not return a request for comment.
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Speaking to PinkNews, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Diane Abbott branded some of the media coverage of PrEP “homophobic”.
She said: “I am horrified by the homophobic media coverage of the court decision on PrEP.
“If it was any other life-saving drug the media would be applauding the campaigners who won the court victory.
“Instead, they are claiming that gay men are taking NHS funding that properly belongs to more ‘deserving’ sick people. And homophobic assertions are made about gay men’s lives.
“It all shows how much homophobia is, just below the surface, in society.”