Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which is highly effective at prevention of transmission of HIV, will become routinely available throughout England.
Currently, PrEP is only available to 20,000 people who are part of the PrEP impact trial but the Department of Health and Social Care announced today that everyone who is at high risk of catching HIV will be able to get PrEP through their local sexual health clinic.
NHS England will cover the costs of the drug, and local authorities will receive an extra with £16m funding in 2020/21 to ensure PrEP is available to everyone who needs it.
The Government has committed to ending HIV transmission by 2030 and figures show that HIV transmissions in gay and bisexual men have fallen by 71% since 2014.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘I am determined to do more, and end HIV transmission. So we are rolling out PrEP and making it available across the country – with evidence showing it almost completely eradicates the chances of getting HIV.’
He added: ‘This will benefit tens of thousands of people’s lives and drive us towards our ambition of zero HIV transmissions in this decade’.
PrEP, which can reduce the risk of HIV transmission from sex by 99% if taken correctly, has been subject to much debate and in 2016 the National AIDS Trust took court action against NHS England for failing to consider PrEP and HIV prevention as part of its obligations.
The trust’s chief executive Deborah Gold said; ‘We’re delighted PrEP will finally be freely available to everyone who needs it in England.
‘We look forward to working with partners across healthcare and in the community to ensure underserved groups such as women and trans people are able to access this pioneering medication.
‘Only when we reach every single person who needs PrEP can we harness its full potential’.
HIV diagnoses are at their lowest level since 2000, thanks to testing and prevention efforts. Currently there are over 100,000 people living with HIV in the UK, and 7% of those infected do not know they have it.