Words: Jamie Tabberer
The London-based clinic is marking the news by spotlighting its microsite (www.dean.st/prep) for those interested in signing up for the HIV prevention pill.
Dr Alan McOwan, Lead Clinician at 56 Dean Street told Attitude: “It so exciting to be finally able to offer PrEP on the NHS. We’ve known that it’s a really effective way to prevent HIV for over five years. Now we can offer it to everyone who needs it.
"Diagnoses of HIV at the clinic have fallen by over 80%. However we haven’t seen a drop in gay men aged under 25. Most couldn’t afford to buy PrEP. So free NHS PrEP is an incredibly powerful weapon in our mission to create a generation free from HIV.”
RuPaul's Drag race UK star Crystal, who is helping spread word about the microsite, told Attitude: “PrEP is something I wish had been available to me when I was younger and single. Like many gay men in my generation, I grew up in the shadow of the AIDS crisis, and really had a lot of fear and anxiety in my 20s over contracting HIV.
RPDR UK star Crystal is backing 56 Dean Street's campaign (Picture: Provided)
"Without being overly dramatic, I think PrEP is an important tool for gay liberation - and it's so important that people know how accessible it is now.
"I didn't realise that while HIV infection rates are dropping, there has been no change in rates of infection in 18-25 year olds. PrEP is a powerful, and now free, tool to combat this!"
Asked if she is on PrEP, she replied: "I'm not, but if I were single or non-monogamous, I would be. It just makes sense."
PrEP talk: an interview with Dr Alan McOwan, Lead Clinician at 56 Dean Street
For someone new to PrEP, what are the first steps to getting hold of PrEP at Dean Street?
Not everyone needs PrEP, so a good place to start is to use the ‘PrEP tool’ on the Dean Street website (www.dean.st/prep). Then it’s as simple as booking an appointment at Dean Street Express. Call us, or there’s a link to book online. Over the next few months NHS PrEP will roll out to all sexual health clinics in England.
Is there a limit to how many people can sign up? Are we going to run out?!
The great news is that there’s no cap on numbers. Places won’t run out. So there’s no need to panic or rush. Everyone who meets the NHS criteria will be able to access it for free. Check our website for details!
How confident are you that we can one day eradicate HIV completely? What are the next steps to this end?
I truly believe we are at a turning point. The COVID-19 lockdown has helped break the chain of infection. I’m asking everyone to get an HIV test. If it’s positive start treatment. If it’s negative consider PrEP (if condoms aren’t for you). If we all act together within a few years HIV transmission will be very rare.
There is some confusion about how and when to take PrEP, depending if you’re on daily/event-based. Could you summarise this for us?
There are 2 ways to take PrEP. The clinic will run HIV, kidney and hepatitis tests before you start.
Event based dosing is great if you can predict your risk. It is only proven for anal sex. So use daily dosing if you have risk from injecting or vaginal sex. Take 2 pills at least 2 hours before sex. Then one pill every 24 hours until you have taken 2 doses after your last risk.
Daily dosing involves taking a PrEP pill around the same time each day. After 7 days you’ll be protected. If you need rapid protection, start in the same way as event based (Take 2 pills at least 2 hours before sex). It’s really important to continue for at least 2 days after your last risk if you decide to stop it.