Sexual health advocate Adam Shanley has criticised the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, for his silence regarding Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and access to the drug which can prevent HIV.
PrEP is the medication which, when taken daily, is highly successful at preventing HIV-negative people from becoming HIV-positive.
Doctors in Ireland are able to prescribe the medication but sourcing it in Ireland under current circumstances could cost hundreds of euro every month, a cost which Shanley is urgently calling for the HSE to absorb.
“We need a speedy and positive outcome from the ongoing review of Truvada in the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics so that the drug becomes reimbursable [for use as PrEP] through the health service,” Shanley said.
“We are still waiting to hear from the Minister for Health Simon Harris on this issue. His silence on this topic is an indictment to his position and the health of men who have sex with men (MSM) in Ireland.”
Shanley went on to welcome the recent comments that Irish and international “advances in sexual health is a priority” for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, before urging him to intervene in the situation by making “PrEP and the health of MSM a main priority”.
These calls for direct intervention come as access to PrEP which has been purchased online is being restricted by government bodies such as the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) and the HSE.
Purchasing PrEP online with the help of sites such as iwantprepnow.co.uk facilitates the medication being attained at a fraction of the price it would cost through currently available channels in Ireland.
The Medical Independent reports that the HSE’s Working Group on HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) has begun discouraging doctors from directing patients to iwantprepnow.co.uk amidst HPRA concerns over the authenticity of drugs imported via the internet.
In July, the HPRA confirmed the seizure of PrEP by customs officers and issued a statement strongly advising against procuring prescription-only medications online.
It has been reported that despite HPRA concerns, the authority is not conducting PrEP testing on the drugs which have been seized by customs upon entry into Ireland.
With over 500 new HIV infections in Ireland in 2016 and more than 50% of those within the MSM community, these recent developments are also drawing the attention of HIV activism group, Act Up Dublin.
Act Up Dublin member Andrew Leavitt has questioned the reputed decision of the HPRA not to test the seized medication and is urging the HSE to establish resources like renal testing for those who are sourcing PrEP online.
If you would like Simon Harris to address the issue of PrEP access, HIV prevention and the sexual health of MSM, you can sign this Change.org petition here.
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