'It could save lives' - Man's bid for universal roll out of HIV drug
PUBLISHED: 08:36 05 December 2018 | UPDATED: 13:20 05 December 2018
A Harleston man has called for a "universal roll out" of a drug which protects people from HIV.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is available to anyone in Scotland, while in Northern Ireland and Wales there are trials under way which do not cap numbers.
However in England the drug is only available at selected clinics and is limited to 13,000 high risk people. And in Norwich just 38 people were able to access the drug through the trial.
Tom Howard, of Briar Road, Harleston, said he encountered problems while looking into PrEP - prompting him to start the petition.
The 22-year-old said: “I’m a member of the LGBT community and I heard about PrEP at the beginning of this year. From my understanding it’s effective in around 99pc of cases if it’s taken regularly as you’re supposed to.
“But when I looked at local clinics to see where I could access it, the trials were all closed. Obviously I was a bit worried I could not access it.”
Mr Howard said the trials had since reopened, but numbers were still restricted.
He said: “The trial limits the availability of the drug, but it was recently extended from 10,000 to 13,000 people in England. Nonetheless, it is only available at selected clinics in urban areas and neglects those from rural areas - it is also only given to those deemed to be at high risk.
“Following on from World AIDS Day, I feel that the government has a duty to ensure that preventive measures are accessible to everyone throughout the United Kingdom. It is nonsensical to deny access to PrEP, as it is cheaper to offer temporary preventive medication than to provide lifelong support to those infected with HIV/AIDS. It could save lives.”
Mr Howard said many people turned to potentially dangerous online sellers to get the medication, costing between £19 and £150.
He added: “I believe that access to this drug should not be determined by an individuals income or their postcode, it should be accessible to all those requiring preventive medication.”
An NHS England spokesperson said: “The NHS PrEP trial has outperformed expectations with 10,000 people already receiving access to this key HIV prevention measure.
“The learning from this trial will be critical to informing the rollout of a future national PrEP programme in partnership with local authorities.”
Mike Passfield, head of iCaSH services - which provide sexual healthcare in Norfolk - said: “Our services are fully committed to the PrEP trial and continues to recruit people to the study in Norwich. We look forward to understanding the outcomes from the trial.”