Thousands of men will be able to trial HIV-prevention drugs on the NHS from next year.
A drug that dramatically reduces the risk of being infected with HIV will now be offered to patients by the NHS in England, in a three-year-long clinical trial.
It comes after a long battle between NHS England and sexual health advocates. Last month, the Court of Appeal upheld a High Court ruling which stated NHS England did have the power to fund the drug after arguing responsibility for paying for it should fall to local authorities.
Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis or Prep drug Truvada can reduce people’s chances of being infected with HIV by over 90 percent if taken daily.
It costs £400 a month per person and trials suggest it can cut the risk of being infected by up to 86%.
Professor Kevin Fenton, director of health and wellbeing at Public Health England, said: “Currently 13,500 people are living in the UK with undiagnozed HIV and we are still seeing around 5,000 new infections each year.
“Given we are in the fourth decade of this epidemic there are too many new infections occurring, and we need to use all tools available to save lives and money. We’re delighted to be working in partnership with NHS England on this major new addition to the national HIV prevention program.
“This comes after much planning and preparation to ensure we can successfully coordinate this extremely important and large scale clinical trial.
“We encourage all those who may be at risk of HIV to ensure they get tested and we are again working with local authorities to fund the HIV home-sampling test kit as well as issuing joint guidance for the first time with NICE, which supports increased uptake of HIV testing.”
Dr Ian Williams, chairman of NHS England’s group on HIV, said: “This announcement demonstrates NHS England’s commitment to fund Prep and provides the chance to best prepare England for optimal roll-out following this large-scale clinical trial.
“For now, the trial will provide access to Prep for thousands of people most at risk of acquiring HIV.”
Men who have sex with men are one of the groups at the highest risk of contracting HIV.
In London, one in eight gay men has HIV, while the proportion in the rest of the UK is one in 26.
Aids charities have welcomed the “life-changing” decision.
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