Scotland is officially the first place in the UK where HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a HIV prevention drug is available on the NHS.
PrEP, has so far shown to decrease the risk of HIV infection by 90% in other countries where it’s been used for a while now. The drug was approved by the Scottish Medicine Consortium (SMC) and campaigners who had been fighting for the drug to be introduced in Scotland couldn’t be happier.
The chairman of SMC Dr. Alan MacDonald said that when PrEP is used in combination with other safe sex practices, it can greatly contain the spread of HIV and reduce new infection cases.
The drug retailing under the brand name Truvada suppresses the viral load of an infected person reducing their chances of infecting other people. The drug also prevents the HIV virus to progress into AIDS thus keeping the infected person healthier for longer.
The National AIDS Trust (NAT) chief executive Deborah Gold said that PrEP will turn Scotland into a model world over of how to effectively prevent HIV.
Scotland to Save Massively in Lifetime Treatment Costs
By making the drug available and with the potential to prevent new HIV cases, the NHS Scotland stands to save £360,000 in lifetime treatment costs.
NHS England had earlier resisted rolling out PrEP claiming that the cost of the HIV therapy was high but it lost after campaigners for the drug went to court and won.
NAT funded the court case and was more than delighted to win the case making PrEP finally available in Scotland.
Critics of the therapy had claimed that the cost of PrEP would affect funding of other important medication such as cancer treatments. They claimed that NHS had already started to cut funding for some specialised treatments. Some Christian groups also fought the drug claiming that it could lead to increased promiscuity.
About 5,000 people get infected with HIV every year in the UK. The rate of infection among men having sex with men (MSM) is going up in an alarming rate.
Trials for PrEP had already been done using the MSM group in the UK and they had shown high level of success. This was the group in whom the trials in the UK were done and where the evidence is strongest but roll out of the drug was delayed.
NHS England said it needed to address certain issues raised during the trials before it could roll out the drug. Some of the issues mentioned were dosage frequency. That is how many times someone needs to take the daily tablet and how long they should stay on the regime.
Patients Free of Worry
Individuals who have already started using PrEP, which is currently available online, say that they feel reassured about their health and no longer worry about getting infected with HIV.
They say that PrEP has allowed them to take control of their sexual health thus giving them a peace of mind. It makes them responsible not only of their own sexual health but that of their partners too.
Health practitioners however, remind people that PrEP will only protect them from HIV and not from other sexually transmitted infections. It’s therefore, important that they don’t rely on PrEP or even HIV PEP alone for full protection but use it in combination with other preventive measures such as the condom.