UK: Calls for PrEP to be available on National Health Service

11 September 2015
Truvada - the drug used as PrEP
Leading HIV and AIDS organisations have called for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to be made available on the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) following the release of successful results from the PROUD study in the Lancet this week. The study looked at the efficacy of providing antiretroviral treatment (ART) to high-risk men who have sex with men (MSM) to prevent HIV transmission. In this group, PrEP was found to be 86% effective in stopping new HIV infections among gay men in the UK. Crucially, there was also no indication of increased risk-taking for men enrolled in the trial.

The PROUD trial included 544 men who were split into two groups. The first group were given PrEP straight away, whilst the second group were to be given it after one year. However, the study was famously halted in October 2014 after resoundingly positive results from the group that were given PrEP straight away. Initial results showed an HIV incidence rate of just 1.2% for this group of high-risk gay men, compared to 9% for the deferred group.

Typical responses to the provision of PrEP include the perception that accessing this type of prevention will increase condom use complacency and risk-taking behaviours. However, the study also showed that there was no difference in the rates of chlamydia, gonorrhoea and other STIs between the groups.

In the UK, new HIV infections have remained steady over the past decade, with the burden of HIV largely on gay men and other MSM. New approaches are needed to curb the HIV epidemic, and the public health benefits of PrEP should be considered as part of a package of interventions for key affected populations.


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©Getty Images/ Justin Sullivan