Make new HIV protection pill available on the NHS, say sexual health campaigners

Health Reporter

Sexual health campaigners have backed calls for a daily pill which protects against HIV to be made available on the NHS, after authorities in the USA issued new guidance which could see it prescribed to thousands of gay men.

Trials of pre-exposure prophylaxis (commonly known as PrEP) in the USA have shown them it be highly effective at reducing the risk of infection. Earlier this week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, America’s federal health authority, endorsed the use of the daily pill for patients who are regularly having sex with HIV positive partners, for gay men who have sex without a condom and for heterosexuals who have sexual partners who are considered a high risk, such as drug injectors.

The decision, which marks a major milestone in efforts to protect the US population against HIV/AIDS, was welcomed by sexual health charities in the UK. However, some critics in the US have warned that the drug could lead to complacency around condom use and more unsafe sexual behaviour.

A trial is underway across England to determine whether or not PrEP will lead to a reduction in condom use and a consequent rise in other sexually transmitted infections. The two-year PROUD trial, which involves 550 gay men, is also looking at issues such as uptake and adherence to the drug. It finished recruiting earlier this year and could pave the way for a wider trial which campaigners hope will give health authorities in the UK the detailed health data required to recommend a roll-out of the drug on the NHS.

“We need as many effective prevention options as we can to reduce the spread of HIV, especially among gay men and other high risk groups,” said Yousef Azad, director of policy at the National Aids Trust. “Condoms are essential and will remain essential but there is a prevention gap that condoms are not meeting… We don’t think [PrEP] is a silver bullet, but all the evidence suggests it could have an important role… before we get it on the NHS, which is what I think we should have, we should make sure through the PROUD trial that we’re confident about some of these unanswered questions.”

The pill being used in the PROUD trials, Truvada, manufactured by the American biotech company Gilead, is the same one endorsed by the CDC. It is already used in the UK as part of combination therapy for people already infected with HIV, but is not approved for use as a preventative measure.

Some experts remain concerned that PrEP will do more harm than good.

Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation in the USA, one of the world’s largest HIV healthcare providers, caused consternation in many quarters last month when he labelled Truvada “a party drug” because of concerns that it would lead to an increase in so-called "bareback", or unprotected, sex.

However, Justin Harbottle, health improvement officer with the UK sexual health charity the Terrence Higgins Trust said that such fears were misplaced.

“Whenever you get a new type of prevention launched, you get this moral angst around it, about the implications and questions over whether the existing preventions aren’t enough in themselves,” he said. “It’s even been compared to the female contraceptive pill. But if you’ve got any kind of health issue, there’s no one prevention method which is going to be ideal for everybody. For HIV, condom usage works for the vast majority of gay men but for others there is a real problem with adhering to that and PrEP is a completely different way to approach that problem.”

Sport
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

    £6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

    £12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

    Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

    £32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

    Day In a Page

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing