PrEP will be available on the NHS from April

It’s already available in Scotland and Wales, but now those living in England will have access to the vital HIV prevention drug, too.

by Mahoro Seward
16 March 2020, 12:38pm

Photography Alice Zoo

As you’re more than likely aware, recent news regarding public health in the UK hasn’t exactly offered much cause for optimism. Amid the haze of gloomy headlines, however, there’s one well worth celebrating: after years of dedicated campaigning by HIV and sexual health charities like the Terrence Higgins Trust, PrEP -- or pre-exposure prophylaxis -- is finally to be offered in England via the NHS.

Already available in Scotland and Wales, the once-a-day antiretroviral pill has been proven to be almost 100% effective in preventing HIV transmission when taken effectively. In a study run by the UK Medical Research Council, comparing gay men on PrEP against non-users, there was an 86% reduction in new HIV infections in PrEP users. And yet, despite the surefire evidence in the drug’s favour, NHS England has been worryingly slow to broaden access to it, often forcing those seeking the medication to turn to private online vendors.

While the news is positive, work remains to be done to ensure that at-risk demographics beyond gay and bisexual men are also aware of the benefits of PrEP and are able to freely access it. It’s also worth underscoring that while the medication is extremely effective in the prevention of HIV transmission, it does not minimise the risk of contracting other STDs like syphilis, chlamydia or gonorrhoea. As such, the advice of your secondary school sex-ed teachers regarding condoms very much still applies.