Radio host launches on-air tirade at PrEP ruling: 'If your partner is HIV-positive, don't have sex'

In a throwback to the worst of '80s AIDS epidemic hysteria, British broadcaster and journalist Ian Collins has told radio listeners not to have sex with HIV-positive partners, during an on-air tirade against yesterday's PrEP ruling. Reacting to the decision by the Court of Appeal that NHS England does indeed have the power to commission HIV-preventing PrEP medication, Collins said that those in serodiscordant relationships, where one partner has HIV and the other does not, should refrain from all sexual contact. With the estimated cost of providing PrEP to around 10,000 people deemed most at risk of HIV an estimated £20 million, Collins incorrectly said that the drug was already being publicly funded, before calling it "the dictionary definition of a scandal". He told listeners: "Critics have said at £400 per person per month, the drug treatment is too expensive and those in that high risk group should be encouraged to practice safer sex. Well just don't have sex at all. "We are funding a drug for people who haven't got HIV, but as a way of protecting them so that they might not get it so they can still have sex with their partner and not worry about protection. "That is the dictionary definition of a scandal. Can someone enlighten here?" PrEP is a pill which, if taken once daily, has proved "highly effective" in protecting against the transmission of HIV. He continued: "Nick Perry, who's been taking PrEP as part of a trial and said that the drug was part of a host of measures to help people practice safer sex and for the him, it had taken the fear away. "But if it's costing the NHS that much money, don't have sex, Nick. Sorry. "Love your partner, hug your partner, kiss your partner, do all manner of other things you can do with your partner, just don't have sex. If your partner HIV positive, don't have sex. There's lots of people that don't have sex for lots of reasons. "Do you think kids who've got cystic fibrosis don't have to give things up, or change their lifestyle because of their disease? Of course they do. "And you're being asked to just simply keep your pants on. This is not a drug that is funding people with HIV. It is funding people without HIV so that they can sleep with people with HIV. That's it." As well as encouraging abstinence among those in high-risk groups such as gay men, Collins' hysterical comments about serodiscordant relationships come in spite of the fact that when correctly treated with anti-retroviral therapy, HIV can become undetectable in the body. Studies have shown that when this is case the chance of transmitting the virus to a sexual partner is heavily reduced – often by as much as 96%. The recently published PARTNER study found no linked HIV transmissions between 1166 sero-discordant couples (where one is HIV negative and one positive). This is after they had sex 58,000 times without a condom.
Yesterday's ruling on PrEP comes as HIV rates among men who have sex with men (MSMs) continues to increase year on year in the UK. On average 17 people are diagnosed with HIV in the UK every day, with the lifetime cost to the NHS for each diagnosis around £360,000.

All research on PrEP and HIV strongly recommends that condoms are used during sexual intercourse, even if undertaking a preventative treatment such as PrEP.

Words: Christian Angeloni/Will Stroude

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