Wait for PrEP rollout finally over with cash injection to provide the HIV prevention pill entirely uncapped

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)

Vital funding details for the long-awaited rollout of PrEP, the HIV-preventative daily pill known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, were announced Friday (25 September) by the British government.

The department of health and social care published guidance for the crucial grants for local authorities to start distributing PrEP across England – previously delayed by the coronavirus pandemic which gnawed on many public health programs.

With HIV advocates and sexual health experts pushing for a 1 October launch, leaders from the Terrence Higgins Trust, one of Britain’s top HIV charities, told PinkNews that the wait for PrEP has stretched “far too long”, but welcomed the “important step”.

The £11.2million grant determination, shaped by parliamentary under secretary of state for health Jo Churchill, means that England can provide PrEP completely uncapped.

It will eclipse the earlier “impact trial”, which has seen around 20,000 at-risk people able to access PrEP on the NHS, but without the cap on numbers that limited those who could access it.

‘This allocation of funds should means a PrEP rollout is ready to go,’ says head of top HIV charity. 

Sprawling London boroughs, such as Westminster, Lambeth and Islington, will be boosted with sizeable amounts of the grant, as well as councils of major English cities such as Birmingham, Leeds and Brighton and Hove.

The arrival of a nationalised PrEP distribution program will not doubt bring respite to the around 103,800 people living with HIV, with around seven per cent of those unaware that they had contracted the virus, according to 2018 figures from Publish Health England.

Richard Angell, head of policy and public affairs at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “With three working days before the start of October – the delayed but finally promised launch of uncapped PrEP access in England – the health department has finally allocated funds to local government to start the rollout.

“There should now be nothing standing in the way of this important HIV transmission prevention drug finally becoming a reality in England. This follows years of painstaking battling and further delays due to COVID-19.”

Angell keyed a level of urgency for public health officials to make PrEP widely available as soon as possible – “the wait has been too long”, he said.

“We know hard-working local officials and many clinics put the wheels in motion for a start of October launch to make the most of this game-changer for HIV prevention – this allocation of funds should mean people are ready to go.

“More work is needed to ensure all groups affected by HIV know about PrEP and how to access it, but this is undoubtedly an important step forward as we work towards ending HIV transmissions in England by 2030.”