One in every seven men havig sex with men (MSM) in London is suffering from HIV. Almost half of new HIV diagnoses in Western Europe are reported in London. New HIV diagnosis rates in London are nearly twice the average of Western Europe.
NHS England has commenced a trial of HIV Pre-exposure phophylaxis (PrEP), a drug that has been hailed to reduce the risk of HIV infection by over 90%.
PrEP is taken before sexual intercourse and if taken correctly according to recommended prescription, the drug can prevent HIV infections by up to 99 per cent.
Four clinics in London have been trailling the drug and over that course there has been a reported 40% reduction in the number of new HIV infections among MSMs.
The clinics are crediting PrEP as a major contributing factor that saw a first time decrease in the number of new infections among this group in 2015.
10,000 People to Benefit From the PrEP Trial
The trial will involve 10,000 people who are at high risk of getting infected with HIV for a period of three years. This is a huge step in fighting new infections in the UK.
There have been concerns regarding the efficiency of PrEP with most people fearing that people might get too excited about the drug and abandon condom use completely putting them at risk of getting other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). PrEP does not offer protection against other STIs.
A good number of studies have shown that PrEP is by far the most effective prevention method after condoms. Experts advice healthcare providers to encourage combination prevention method where people take PrEP but also use condoms.
NHS Tried to Block PrEP but Failed
NHS England had previously refused to fund PrEP trials claiming that it would be too expensive. Stakeholders went to court and won forcing NHS to fund the national PrEP service.
NHS claimed that spending money for the PrEP service would affect budgets for other healthcare services such as cancer. However, studies show that governments stand to lose more money by reducing HIV budgets.
NHS will spend around £20m a year to roll out the PrEP program. This is way less than what it would cost the agency to treat people living with HIV for the rest of their lives.
If the success of PrEP witnessed in other countries is replicated across the UK, the country stands to prevent almost two and a half thousand new HIV cases annually. Such a reduction will save the NHS £864m. Prevention is certainly cheaper than cure.
The trial is hoped to offer NHS with adequate information regarding the use of PrEP and hopefully the program will be rolled out nationally and open to other high-risk groups for more reduced HIV rates.
Hopefully, it will also be made available on the NHS making it more affordable to everyone. Currently, PrEP is only available online and is marketed under the Truvada trademark.
The Truvada PrEP pill has tenofovir and emtricitabine and has been received pretty well by those using it all over the world. The drug has no major side effects.