The government has more than doubled its funding for the routine commissioning of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in England over the next financial year.
Commenting on the allocation of the public health grant to local authorities, health minister Jo Churchill said that the grant for 2021/2022 included £23.4m to cover the routine commissioning of PrEP, a £12.4m increase on the funding provided for PrEP provision in 2020/2021.
“I am pleased the public health grant for 2021/22 includes £23.4m to cover local authority costs of routine commissioning of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP),” she said.
“We know the significant impact PrEP plays in reducing HIV transmission, as part of a combination of preventative interventions.”
She said that PrEP was now available “in most areas across the country” following a phased roll-out during 2020/2021.
“This is particularly welcome for individuals and allows increased access despite the demands on services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This funding will benefit tens of thousands of people and take us closer to our commitment of zero new HIV transmissions in England by 2030.”
Richard Angell, head of policy at charity the Terrence Higgins Trust, welcomed the extra funding, but said: “While the HIV prevention drug is now available across the majority of the country, it’s not available everywhere — which must change, and quickly. We also need to see this funding used for far greater innovation to ensure as broad a range of people as possible are aware of its benefits, including community engagement and targeted messaging to reach black African people and other most impacted communities.
“Beyond that, we need to see PrEP made available outside sexual health clinics, as we know that some people at risk of HIV don’t use these services. Providing PrEP through community pharmacies and GP surgeries would be a great start in terms of improving this.”
Earlier in March 2020, the Department of Health and Social Care confirmed to The Pharmaceutical Journal that it was considering provision of PrEP outside of sexual health clinics, which could include via pharmacies.
A blog from THT, published on the HIV Commission website on 4 March 2021, referred to a letter Churchill sent in mid-February 2021 to Dame Inga Beale, chair of the HIV Commission, containing announcements on HIV and provision of PrEP.
The letter reportedly said that the government would look at the settings in which PrEP should be made available outside of sexual health clinics.