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.
Roll-out must now happen rapidly so no one is left behind.
This is a victory years in the making. Thank you for standing with us. pic.twitter.com/N7xp0EpkMO
— Terrence Higgins Trust (@THTorguk) March 15, 2020
“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.”