Stonewall welcomes today’s Court of Appeal ruling, that there is no legal barrier to the NHS commissioning PrEP, a drug which prevents HIV transmission. This decision upholds a High Court ruling in August.
This legal challenge, brought by the National Aids Trust, came about because last year the NHS stopped commissioning PrEP. This is despite research showing that the drug dramatically reduces the risk of HIV transmission. HIV remains a major health concern for men who have sex with men, alongside the wider population. It is particularly concerning given that the UK's approach to sexual health for the LGBT population is already unequal.
Disappointingly NHS England refused to accept the initial ruling arguing that it was a preventative measure and should be left to local authorities. Today, their refusal to accept responsibility for this important public health issue has been well and truly put to bed.
This is not the end of the story though. PrEP will now continue through the NHS commissioning process. Whether the drug is deemed to be cost-effective or not will be a significant factor in the decision-making process. Given that it costs much more to treat than to prevent HIV, the case for PrEP to be available from the NHS to groups at higher risk of HIV is strong. Stonewall is urging the NHS to commission PrEP – and avoid putting people’s health and lives at risk - without any further delay.
Of course, PrEP is not the sole answer to tackling HIV transmission. This preventative measure should be accompanied by high-quality sex and relationships education - the majority of LGBT young people still say they don’t receive the information or guidance they need to stay safe in same-sex relationships. Stonewall continues to urge the Government to update existing guidance on SRE so that LGBT young people are equipped to make safe, healthy decisions about their wellbeing.