HIV activists celebrate as Wales confirms life-saving HIV drug PrEP will be rolled out on the NHS

Prescription Doctor directly orders PrEP from their UK registered pharmacy, broadening the scope of how people can access the drug across the nation.(Daniel Born/The Times/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

PrEP, the game changing HIV prevention drug, will be made freely available on the NHS in Wales, it has been confirmed.

The once-a-day drug, which prevents people without HIV from acquiring the virus when taken correctly, will be made available across Wales “for all people for whom it is clinically appropriate”.

Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething made the announcement on Wednesday (June 30), as a three-year trial study into the drug comes to a close.

Since 2017, more than 1,200 people have been prescribed PrEP as part of the PrEPARED trial.

Not a single person on the trial acquired HIV in that time, Gething said.

PrEP roll-out ‘a significant milestone’ for Wales.

This compelling result, as well as other data collected during the trial and the lowered cost of generic PrEP available to the NHS since September 2018, were taken into consideration.

“The provision of PrEP is an important measure in our aim to eliminate HIV and I am proud of what we have achieved to date in Wales,” Gething said in a statement.

“We have made huge progress in developing more modern and effective sexual health services over the last few years.”

Debbie Laycock, head of policy at Terrence Higgins Trust, called the decision “a significant milestone in the HIV response in Wales”.

“By making this HIV game-changer routinely available its benefits can now be fully unlocked,” she added.

“Now the real work begins to get PrEP in the hands of more of those who can benefit from it.”

PrEP to be freely available in Wales, England and Scotland – and through a trial in Northern Ireland.

The Welsh Government was the first in the UK to commit to ending new HIV transmissions by 2030, though Scotland was the first to introduce PrEP on the NHS, back in 2017.

Wales’ decision to roll out PrEP comes shortly three months after a similar decision in England, where the drug will be made freely available within the coming months. 

Northern Ireland has just recently announced a two-year nationwide PrEP trial, the drug having only been available through a pilot clinic previously.

There remains challenges to ensure PrEP isn’t only seen as something for gay and bisexual men.

Laycock acknowledged that the health service in Wales, like England, is under pressure from COVID-19, which could impact the transition from trial to routine commission.

“However it’s really important there is a smooth transition onto routine PrEP for people currently accessing PrEP through the study,” Laycock added.

“There remains challenges to ensure PrEP isn’t only seen as something for gay and bisexual men and that its benefits can reach other groups impacted by HIV, including women, trans people and BAME communities.

“We also know there has been a number of people who have been eligible for PrEP but declined it and we welcome the study currently looking at why this is.”