NHS England has announced the start date for the previously-announced trial of HIV prevention drug PrEP.

From September, around 10,000 participants will begin taking the drug as part of a three-year trial to assess whether it is cost effective for the NHS to provide access to PrEP over the long term. Those taking part in the trial will not be charged for their prescription of PrEP.

Clinics in London, Manchester, Brighton, Liverpool and Sheffield will be among the first to offer PrEP, with other locations following suit later in the year. It is likely that gay men will form a large proportion of those who are offered to take part in the trial, especially those who are in a relationship with someone who is HIV-positive.

NHS England previously announced that it would not cover the drug, prompting legal action which ended in a High Court ruling stating that the NHS is responsible for the provision of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medication.

Chief executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, said: “This major new intervention should complement and supercharge the wide-ranging and increasingly successful effort to prevent HIV.

“It’s another milestone in more than three decade’s worth of progress in tackling one of humanity’s major health challenges.”

Ian Green, Chief Executive of Terrence Higgins Trust, reacted positively to the announcement. He said:We’re pleased that NHS England has announced a start date for the much anticipated PrEP trial. This PrEP trial has been gaining momentum in England, and is vital as we work towards ending HIV transmissions across the UK.

“The priority must now be to make sure that the trial reaches everyone at risk of HIV, and that it is rolled out speedily across the whole country, by the end of this year at the very latest. Spring 2018 is not soon enough.

“Now that the PrEP trial drug has been procured, we’re well on the way to protecting over 10,000 people at risk of HIV. To make sure no-one at risk of HIV is left behind, it is crucial that at the end of this trial in three years time, a clear process for routinely commissioning PrEP on the NHS is agreed.”

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