London’s PrEP Trial To Be Boosted By 60%

London Councils has announced that an agreement has been reached to increase places on the PrEP trial by over 4,000 places.

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The news arrives as over two-thirds of sites in London are now closed to gay and bisexual men. The boost still leaves the capital behind many other parts of England which have agreed to double places on the trial.

Debbie Laycock, Head of Policy at Terrence Higgins Trust, said:

“Finally the stalemate on PrEP has been broken and some leadership is being shown. This is a welcome step in the right direction that will provide some relief to those in the capital who have been denied access to the trial. We welcome the acknowledgement by London Councils that PrEP must be available to everyone at high risk of HIV exposure and as such withholding access is simply not an option”.

She continued: “However this increase is still far short of the doubling of places we were promised by the Health Secretary Matt Hancock over 70 days ago and it won’t be long before we’re once again seeing gay and bisexual men being unable to access PrEP in the capital.

“London continues to outstrip every other part of the UK in the number of new HIV diagnoses each year so it’s critical a sustainable solution for PrEP is found. Today’s news is progress but this remains a job only half complete as places must be doubled to address the high demand seen for PrEP. We need urgent leadership on this from NHS England, the Department for Health & Social Care and councils across the capital because no one at risk of HIV should be turned away.” Laycock concluded.

Currently, 13,000 participants are taking PrEP as part of a trial to test the cost-effectiveness of the drug on the NHS. The health service planned on doubling the number of participants on the programme in a bid to include more women on the trial.

Will Nutland, one of the co-founders of UK-based organisation Prepster spoke about the importance of PrEP with regards to HIV prevention:

“People are being refused access to PrEP and are getting HIV unnecessarily because many trial sites are full. We have one of the most effective tools ever developed to prevent HIV – and yet access to it is being denied.”

Nutland continued:

“Dangling promises of access to PrEP, and then withdrawing them is unacceptable – especially to the thousands of people who want to take control of their health by accessing this technology.”

Debbie Laycock, the Head of Policy and Public Affairs at the Terrence Higgins Trust called the delays “unacceptable”:

“Whilst we welcome the news that the PrEP Trial Board has approved in principle a proposed increase in places, we remain deeply frustrated that there is no definitive timescale as to when these additional places will be released and in fact no commitment that these places will indeed be made available across the country.”

Laycock continued:

“No one at risk of HIV should be denied access to PrEP.”

In Ireland, new HIV diagnoses remain at an all-time high. ACT UP Dublin have called for the implementation of a large-scale, accessible national PrEP programme, as well as other means for preventing HIV including increased testing rates and effective support for people living with HIV.

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