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.”

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Tottenham legend Jimmy Greaves has defended fans use of the word 'Yid'
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West, performing in New York last week, has been the subject of controversy as rock's traditional headline slot at Glastonbury is lost once again
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

    £28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

    £16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

    Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

    £16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

    £17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living