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NHS England extends anti-HIV drug trial, but Camden councillor says roll-out doesn't go far enough

PUBLISHED: 10:13 12 April 2019

Cllr Jonathan Simpson, at Camden's full council meeting on April 8. Picture: Camden Council

Cllr Jonathan Simpson, at Camden's full council meeting on April 8. Picture: Camden Council

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A Camden councillor who pleaded for a wider roll out of preventative HIV drug PrEP earlier this week, says the trial's extension still isn't enough.

Truvada, a example of the PrEP preventative-HIV drug. Picture: Creative Commons/Jeffrey BeallTruvada, a example of the PrEP preventative-HIV drug. Picture: Creative Commons/Jeffrey Beall

This morning NHS England announced there would be 4,000 more places on the PrEP trial in London.

The expansion, which will take place over the next few weeks, represents a 60 per cent increase in the trial places available. London already accounts for 7,609 places, higher than the rest of England combined.

Labour King’s Cross councillor Jonathan Simpson said he was pleased about the extension, but still queried why it wasn’t freely available.

He said: “The expansion of the PrEP trial is very welcome news. But it puts England to shame that the Government are still considering this a trial and not accepting that the drug should be available and paid for by the NHS.

“If Scotland and Wales can do this, the delay seems purely about finance rather than preventing new HIV infections.”

On Monday, he made an impassioned plea for wider availability in the country at Camden’s full council meeting.

“It is really troubling me that there is this delay. I hope that there is no fresh HIV infections because of a lack of information or PrEP.”

“In the 1980s we lost a generation of largely gay men but now with medical advances that could become a thing of the past,” he said.

The drug is freely available in Scotland and Wales, however there has been an ongoing trial in England since September 2017.

Each avoided diagnosis saves the NHS £360,000 in lifetime treatment costs.

The funds for the roll-out will come from council budgets.

The most recent figures from Public Health England revealed a substantial decrease in London HIV’s diagnosis rates of 21pc in 2016-17, compared to the UK-wide decrease of 17pc.

Debbie Laycock, head of policy at the Terence Higgins Trust agreed.

She said: “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.”

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