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Groundbreaking PrEP activist to star in BBC documentary

Hadley Stewart June 25, 2018

The titlescreen of the documentary (BBC Two)

PrEP activist Greg Owen is set to feature in a BBC documentary which will showcase his work.

“The People Vs The NHS: Who Gets The Drugs?” will air on Wednesday June 27.

The documentary was commissioned in line with the NHS celebrating its 70th anniversary at the start of July.

Greg Owen, a prominent PrEP activist, started his website – which allows people access to PrEP – from his mother’s kitchen table in Northern Ireland.

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is a daily pill that is taken by people at higher risk of HIV to prevent them from becoming HIV positive.

Greg Owen is thought to have prevented thousands of people from becoming HIV positive (BBC)

The drug was at the heart of a controversy in 2016, following a legal battle between NHS commissioners and HIV activists.

Speaking about the documentary, National AIDS Trust chief executive Deborah Gould said: “We want all people with health needs to be able to access the drugs that they need.”

Gould joined forces with Owen to take on the NHS in 2016.

The National Health Services said at the time that it did not wish to fund the drug because it was not their responsibility, despite PrEP being described by many as a game-changer in the fight against HIV.

Fears that it could lead to men who have sex with men taking more risks have proved unfounded, with PrEP being shown to cut the risk of contracting HIV by 90 percent.

Owen decided that he wanted to help fellow gay men access PrEP.

PrEP
Gay and bisexual men can access PrEP for free, but only through a clinical trial (NHS)

At the time that Owen’s company IWantPrEPNow was founded, gay and bisexual men faced limited choices with regards to sexual HIV prevention.

The website allowed people to buy PrEP online, importing it from abroad.

Owen’s site has grown since its launch and is now part of the Terrence Higgins Trust, a leading HIV and sexual health charity.

It is also an extremely popular online source of information for PrEP for gay and bisexual men from across the globe.

The BBC documentary will showcase how Owen and fellow HIV activists successfully challenged the NHS’s decision not to fund the drug, as part of a lengthy legal battle.

Today the NHS is giving those deemed at “high risk” of HIV transmission, including gay and bisexual men, the opportunity to be part of a clinical trial.

The IMPACT trial is currently restricted to 3,000 places and demand is understandably high.

Many gay and bisexual men are still having to source PrEP for themselves, paying for the drug through sites like IWantPrEPNow.

Not everyone agrees that the NHS should fund PrEP (BBC)

The documentary does not shy away from controversy, however, with Andrew Pierce of the Daily Mail calling for gay men to take responsibility for their own sexual health.

“That’s outrageous, why should the taxpayer subsidise a reckless sex life?” argues Pierce.

“Take responsibility for yourself, that’s what this is about.”

Despite this kind of argument against the drug, the BBC says during the documentary that Owen helped to prevent thousands of people from becoming HIV positive.

“The People Vs The NHS: Who Gets The Drugs” will air this Wednesday, June 27, at 9pm on BBC Two.

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