THE preventative HIV treatment PrEP is to be rolled out across England thanks to a £16 million funding boost.
Over the next year, local authorities will receive the cash to make the drug available in sexual health clinics for anyone who is at a high risk of contracting HIV.
The move is part of the government’s aim to end HIV transmission by 2030.
Studies have shown that, taken daily, PrEP reduces the risk of getting the virus from sex by about 99 per cent.
It is currently available in England through the three-year PrEP impact trial which has recruited more than 20,000 participants. The new funding boost will ensure those taking part in the trial can continue to take the drug once the trial ends.
The move comes almost three years after the Scottish Government made PrEP freely available to those across Scotland at highest risk of HIV in July 2017.
In 2018, an estimated 103,800 people were living with HIV in the UK, 7,500 of whom were unaware of their infection. Figures show that HIV transmissions in gay and bisexual men have fallen by more than 70 per cent since 2014.
HIV testing in a wide range of settings, increased condom use and the availability of antiretroviral therapy (ART) are all said to have contributed to the drop in transmissions.
Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said: “While it is encouraging to see HIV transmissions continue to fall across the UK, I am determined to do more, and end HIV transmission.
“So we are rolling out PrEP and making it available across the country – with evidence showing it almost completely eradicates the chances of getting HIV. This will benefit tens of thousands of people’s lives, and drive us towards our ambition of zero HIV transmissions in this decade.”
Chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust Ian Green said the decision to widen access to PrEP was “a historic day in the context of the HIV epidemic”, that had come after years of campaigning.
He added: “There is still also a lot of work to do to ensure PrEP isn’t just seen as something for gay and bisexual men and that its clear benefits reach other groups affected by HIV, including women, trans people and BAME communities.”