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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 3, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 23
Brits reject PrEP for second time
Section One
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Brits reject PrEP for second time

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff writer

Britain's National Health Service (NHS), the country's health care provider, has refused for the second time to adopt PrEP to help prevent the transmission of HIV.

The decision applies only to health care in England and not to internally self-governing parts of the country, like Scotland and Wales.

NHS had promised back in 2013 that it would make PrEP available to at-risk individuals, but in March this year it reneged on that commitment because of interagency squabbles over who would pay for the medications.

The subsequent uproar forced the British government to reconsider, but on May 31 NHS said it would stick by its decision not to provide PrEP.

NHS issued the following statement:

'In light of representations from stakeholder groups NHS England agreed to reconsider the decision [not to make PrEP available]. This took place on 31 May 2016 at the Specialized Services Commissioning Committee. In summary, the Committee:

o considered and accepted NHS England's external legal advice that it does not have the legal power to commission PrEP;

o remains committed to working with other commissioners to explore the possible provision of PrEP. This includes working in partnership with Public Health England to run a number of early-implementer test sites, backed with up to £2m investment over the next two years, to research how PrEP could be commissioned in the most clinically and cost-effective way.'

The National AIDS Trust, Britain's leading HIV/AIDS service provider, said it is considering legal action to force NHS to pay for PrEP.

'NHS England is sitting on something that could be the beginning of the end for the HIV epidemic - if only it were made available,' National AIDS Trust Chief Executive Deborah Gold said in a statement.

'The refusal to commission it for all those at significant risk is astonishing. Seventeen people are being diagnosed with HIV every day. We are extremely disappointed, and we will now be looking at our options, including further legal action.'

Matthew Hodson, the director of GMFA: the Gay Men's Health Charity, told Gay Star News that he was shocked and disappointed by the NHS decision.

'The NHS's decision not to ever consider commissioning PrEP is both a shock and a disappointment,' he said. 'Although the commissioning landscape has become complicated, there have been clear indications the NHS is able to commission preventative treatments.

'Each year, thousands of gay men become infected with HIV, and many of these infections could be prevented if PrEP was available.

'We now have all the tools we need to prevent new HIV infections, but this requires commitment and investment. Without PrEP being added to our prevention armory, we are no closer to ending HIV.

'At a recent LGBT reception in Number 10 [Downing Street, the prime minister's official residence], Prime Minister David Cameron made a strong commitment to do whatever he could to facilitate access to PrEP. In light of this, the NHS decision is a particularly crushing blow.'

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