NHS accused of failing patients by not prescribing HIV-preventing PrEP drugs

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The NHS has been urged to begin prescribing HIV-preventing PrEP drugs, after HIV diagnoses among gay and bisexual men rose to their highest level on record.

Figures released today by Public Health England show that the number of men who have sex with men (MSM) newly diagnosed with HIV
has continued to rise – from 2,860 men in 2010, to 3,360 men diagnosed HIV positive in 2014.

Following the news, campaigners have argued that the NHS should act to make Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis drug Truvada available routinely.

The drug – which can drastically reduce people’s chances of getting HIV – is routinely available to gay men in the US, but the NHS is yet to roll out the drug in the UK following a successful trial.

Yusef Azad, Director of Strategy at the National AIDS Trust said: “We are seeing nine gay men getting an HIV diagnosis every day, which is nine too many.

“Important prevention work goes on, and without it the HIV rates would be even higher. But the reality is current prevention work is making no dent on these numbers.

“We can look at the example of San Francisco for what works, last year the city saw its lowest number of new HIV diagnoses on record. And since 2012, when PrEP was introduced, new diagnoses have dropped by 30 percent. This is what we need to be doing.

NHS accused of failing patients by not prescribing HIV-preventing PrEP drugs
The campaigner added: “PrEP is an essential additional prevention option for people at high HIV risk, and it is a scandal they still can’t access it here in the UK. A significant percentage of those 6,151 people diagnosed last year would be still be HIV negative if they had taken PrEP.

“NAT is calling on the NHS to provide PrEP without delay. For as long as the NHS fails to provide PrEP it remains accountable for the unacceptably high number of people getting HIV on its watch.”

A decision on whether PrEP will be available in England is expected by April 2016.