Preventative HIV drug ‘to be made routinely available from April’

A drug which prevents HIV infection is to be made available on the NHS this year, it is reported.

The Sunday Times reported that PrEP – or pre-exposure prophylaxis – will be made “routinely available” to patients deemed to be at greater risk of catching HIV from April.

NHS England will cover the costs of the drug, having carried out a three-year study involving more than 20,000 people, the paper said.

Musician and Aids activist Sir Elton John told the Sunday Times the decision was the “right” one.

He added: “Taking PrEP prevents HIV from being passed on, which is truly incredible.

“It is the right decision for the UK Government to roll this out more widely to minimise the spread of this disease so more people are protected — which is critical in fighting any epidemic.”

PrEP is already available in Scotland to people who are considered to be at high risk of contracting HIV, and a trial of the drug is taking place in Wales.

According to the Terrence Higgins Trust, most recent estimates suggest there were around 103,800 people living with HIV in the UK , and around 7% of those are not aware they are HIV positive.

New diagnoses of HIV in the UK fell to their lowest level in almost two decades in 2018 – 4,484 people – due to the success of preventative measures, Public Health England said.

These include HIV testing, condom provision, and wider use of PrEP.

Health secretary Matt Hancock told the paper: “This will benefit tens of thousands of people’s lives and drive us towards our ambition of zero HIV transmissions in this decade.”