Terrence Higgins Trust to fund HIV-preventing PrEP drugs for people who can’t afford to buy privately
HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust has announced that it will fund PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) drugs for at-risk people who cannot access them otherwise.
HIV prevention method PrEP can drastically reduce people’s chances of being infected with HIV. It is not yet routinely offered on the NHS in England, but is currently subject to a large-scale three-year trial.
The trial has struggled with capacity, however.
Amid fears that many gay and bisexual men are being turned away by clinics that have no more spaces for them, HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust today announced that it will fund PrEP drugs for those who cannot afford to buy them privately.
The charity will support up to 1,000 people on low or no income in England or Northern Ireland “who can demonstrate their need for support to cover day-to-day expenses” of privately-purchased PrEP drugs.
Terrence Higgins Trust CEO Ian Green will announce the scheme this morning at the 22nd annual International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam.
Green will say: “The fact that a charity is having to step in to fund PrEP access to those in most financial need is an embarrassment, and demonstrates the crucial need for NHS England, local authorities in England and Health and Social Care Northern Ireland to act now.
“People who are being denied access to PrEP and who are unable to afford it are being put at risk of contracting HIV, which is completely unacceptable.
“We need to see additional spaces for gay and bisexual men added to the NHS PrEP Impact Trial as a matter of urgency, and routine commissioning of PrEP in both England and Northern Ireland.”
Green adds: “Last week, we were one of 32 organisations who came together to call for routine commissioning of PrEP in England by April 2019.
“There’s still so much work to do to enable us to end HIV transmission in the UK; and enabling all people to access PrEP is one of a number of tools that will allow us to do that.
“Terrence Higgins Trust will continue to work toward this, while also continuing to advocate for other tools including testing, condoms and treatment as prevention.”
The National AIDS Trust, PrEPster and Stonewall also signed onto the joint statement warning that the trial capacity is not enough to meet demand.
It said: “In June 2018 NHS England announced it is considering a proposal for a further 3,000 places to be made available on the trial.
“Whilst welcome, this provides only temporary relief. With continuing high demand for PrEP, clinics will again be full and turning people away within a few months. It is therefore not a sustainable solution.”
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“NHS England have committed to the provision of PrEP. With the trial only beginning in October 2017 and due to run for three years, we cannot wait until late 2020 to do something about the current situation.
“We need a national programme as soon as possible to ensure PrEP is made available to everyone in England who needs it.
“NHS England and local authority commissioners must start the process now to ensure PrEP is routinely available in sexual health clinics by 1 April 2019 at the latest.
“Both NHS England and local authority commissioners should agree and disseminate as soon as possible a timetabled roadmap of the necessary decision-making process.
“In the meantime a solution must be found to ensure no one in need of PrEP is turned away.”