Following an outcry and threatened legal action, England’s NHS has announced that it will relook at its cancelled roll-out of PrEP to men who have sex with men (MSM).
In March, the NHS shocked HIV groups by pulling the plug on its advanced decision-making process on whether to make PrEP available.
Its claim that it needed more time to assess if PrEP was effective was scoffed at by experts and activists, who argued that considerable research had shown that it was.
The National AIDS Trust (NAT) threatened to take legal action, leading the NHS on Tuesday to announce that it will meet next month to decide whether to put PrEP back into the decision-making process.
“We welcome this change of mind from NHS England,” commented Deborah Gold, NAT Chief Executive
“NHS England had previously told us that it was impossible for them to reconsider their decision. Faced with legal action, they have now changed their mind. We trust that NHS England, when it re-evaluates its position, will come back with a resounding yes,” she said.
“PrEP is one of the most exciting prevention options to emerge since the HIV epidemic began and offers the prospect of real success in combating this virus,” Gold added. “To deny the proper process to decide whether to commission PrEP, when 17 people are being diagnosed with HIV every day, is not only morally wrong but legally wrong also.”
The use of PrEP has already been approved in the US, Kenya, Israel, Canada, France and South Africa. The South African government recently announced it will provide free PrEP to sex workers and is under pressure to extend this to MSM.
Taken on a daily basis, PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) has been shown to be extremely effective in stopping HIV infection. Its use by gay, bisexual and other MSM, especially those at high risk, has been endorsed by the World Health Organisation (WHO).