The fight for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) - the once-a-day tablet that can cut the risk of HIV transmission by up to 99% - looked like it had been finally won yesterday (August 2), when the courts ruled that NHS England were responsible for providing the "game-changing" preventative medication, after they had initially denied it was within their remit
- which was widely criticised
at the time.
But hopes were dashed when the healthcare body announced it would appeal its decision to provide the drug - which is one of the most important breakthroughs in the fight against HIV since the introduction of anti-retrovirals.
Under the headline 'What a skewed sense of values', the front page of today's Daily Mail (August 3), criticises the ruling, describing PrEP as a "lifestyle drug" which would affect the NHS's capacity to care for those suffering with other medical conditions such a cataracts and cystic fibrosis.
Meanwhile, the online version of the article
used quotes to describe PrEP as a "promiscuity pill".
The paper also though it appropriate to reach out to the Christian Medical Fellowship for comment on the ruling, with a representative, Dr Peter Saunders, denouncing the idea of giving PrEP to "already promiscuous homosexuals".
Describing PrEP as a "lifestyle drug", the paper claimed that it could lead to "higher HIV rates" - despite scientific studies demonstrating the opposite. They also singled out gay men as the key beneficiaries, even though a number of at risk groups - including people from Sub-Saharan Africa, sex-workers, and trans women all standing to benefit from it.
"The drug is being offered at a time when cataract surgery is being restricted, with the Daily Mail highlighting cases of health tourists being allowed to jump the queue. It can be used by women but has so far been targeted at those at high risk of HIV, predominantly gay men".
The article, which appears online too
, also contained potentially divisive inaccuracies, suggesting that NHS England need to consider whether it will encourage sexual risk taking, which is not the case.
Many people have called out the paper's coverage as homophobic, and highlighted the hypocrisy between coverage of PrEP and other preventative healthcare strategies.
PrEP has been hailed as a landmark discovery by health groups, HIV charities and a number of MPs who have urged the government
to make the drug available.
In a statement released yesterday, the National Aids Trust slammed the appeal announcement, saying: "It is enormously disappointing that NHS England has decided to appeal this judgment, especially given the wide ranging and well-reasoned arguments it contains.
"The appeal will further delay clarity in this area, and mean that any potential commissioning of PrEP will not take place for months.
"Following this decision, there will now be a 30-day public consultation on PrEP, which should start almost immediately, and an NHS England committee will consider the case for commissioning it, but final announcements and actual commissioning will be contingent on the outcome of the appeal.
Up to 17 people are diagnosed with HIV every day in the UK. 14% of the 45,000 men who sleep with men living with HIV are unaware of their infection - with PrEP offering an opportunity to protect against transmission.
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