A leading HIV and sexual health charity has announced that it will launch a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) access fund in autumn 2018 to support people in England and Northern Ireland who cannot access or afford the drug.
Announcing its plans at the 22nd Annual International AIDS Conference, the Terrence Higgins Trust said it intended to support up to 1,000 people on low or no income who can demonstrate their need for support to cover day-to-day expenses, subject to funding.
But Ian Green, the Trust’s chief executive, said it was “an embarrassment” that a charity was having to step in to fund PrEP access and that it demonstrated the “crucial need” for NHS England, local authorities in England, and Health and Social Care Northern Ireland to “act now”.
“People who are being denied access to PrEP and who are unable to afford it are being put at risk of contracting HIV, which is completely unacceptable,” said Green.
“There’s still so much work to do to enable us to end HIV transmission in the UK, and enabling all people to access PrEP is one of a number of tools that will allow us to do that.
“Terrence Higgins Trust will continue to work toward this, while also continuing to advocate for other tools, including testing, condoms and treatment as prevention.”
In September 2017, NHS England started its PrEP impact trial to provide PrEP to people at high risk of HIV infection in England in order to gather clinical evidence on optimal targeting, uptake and implementation of PrEP on a large scale.
The trial aimed to provide PrEP to 10,000 people over three years through sexual health clinics across the country. As of June 2018, 7,000 people had signed up and the pilot’s management group had proposed increasing the size of the trial to 13,000 participants. In Northern Ireland, PrEP is only available to those who can afford to buy it privately.
A three-year PrEP pilot in Wales began in early 2017, and in Scotland the use of Truvada for PrEP on the NHS was approved by the Scottish Medicines Consortium on 10 April 2017.
“We need to see additional spaces for gay and bisexual men added to the NHS PrEP impact trial as a matter of urgency, and routine commissioning of PrEP in both England and Northern Ireland,” said Green.
“Last week, we were 1 of 32 organisations who came together to call for routine commissioning of PrEP in England by April 2019.”
The other organisations campaigning for routine commissioning include the National AIDS Trust, PrEPster, and Stonewall.
A spokesperson from the Terrence Higgins Trust said they hoped to know the exact launch date of the access fund by September 2018.