In what is being described as “the most significant breakthrough in the battle against HIV in a generation”, PrEP could soon become widely available in the UK through the NHS. Interim analysis from a UK study has shown the pre-exposure prophylaxis pill, Truvada, to be highly protective against HIV for gay men at high risk of infection.
Dr Sheena McCormack, who is heading the study at the Medical Research Council, said: “The exciting opportunity this offers is to make the biggest dent in the epidemic of all time.” Yusef Azad, of the UK’s National AIDS Trust, said: “These encouraging results provide powerful evidence that PrEP should be accessible to all who need it as soon as possible.”
Dr Rosemary Gillespie, of the Terrence Higgins Trust, echoed the statements and added: “We will now be looking to the NHS to act swiftly to ensure those most at risk of HIV in the UK can access PrEP.”
Following the encouraging results — which are consistent with previous PrEP trials — the UK study will now be fast-tracked and participants who have not yet started PreP will now be allowed to do so ahead of schedule.
The latest developments come as new figures reveal that 2013 saw the number of gay and bisexual men being diagnosed HIV in the UK reach its highest ever level, with no decrease in the rate of infection for almost a decade. It is hoped that the PrEP trial will be rolled out UK-wide by 2017.
So far, the only country to offer Truvada as PrEP is the United States where it was approved for use in 2012. In July this year, the World Health Organisation stated gay men should consider using PrEP as an additional method of HIV prevention alongside condoms.
Truvada trials are currently underway in Australia.
BY CHRISTOPHER KELLY