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Judge says NHS has legal power to fund pre-exposure prophylaxis, which is highly effective in preventing HIV transmission.

A leading Aids charity has won a high court battle over whether a preventative treatment for HIV that charities say is a “game-changer” can legally be funded by the NHS.

NHS England had said it was up to councils to provide the pre-exposure prophylaxis (Prep) drug as they are in charge of preventative health.

But that stance was challenged by the National Aids Trust.

The independent charity also said that most men who have sex with men – who have the highest risk of contracting the virus – use condoms to protect themselves against HIV transmission, but public health services have an ‘ethical duty’ to provide a preventive treatment for those who do not.

The judge said there was nothing to stop the NHS paying for the drug.

The ruling by Mr Justice Green said health bosses had “erred” in arguing it was not their responsibility.

But that does not mean it will now be automatically funded.

NHS England has already announced it will appeal the ruling – and even if that goes against health bosses it is not a given that PrEP will be considered effective enough to warrant NHS funding.

When taken consistently, PrEP has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection in people who are at high risk by more than 90%.

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