Words: Steve Brown
Britain’s leading HIV and sexual health charity has opened a PrEP Access Fund for those who cannot afford to buy the HIV prevention drug.
The Terrence Higgins Trust opened its Mags Portman PrEP Access Fund today (October 30) to help nearly 1,000 people in England and Northern Ireland on no income or receiving benefits to access the HIV prevention drug.
Currently, PrEP is only able to be obtained through the PrEP Impact Trial in England or the NHS PrEP programme in Northern Ireland or the drug can be bought on IWantPrEPNow.
But many people are unable to afford to pay for the drug and the medical trials – despite an additional 3,000 places added – are likely to be all taken by up to early 2019.
Now, the Terrence Higgins Trust is opening up for those who are unable to get hold of the vital drug.
Ian Green, Chief Executive, Terrence Higgins Trust said: “PrEP is a game-changer in HIV prevention and it is vital that anybody who needs it is able to access it.
“We have set up the Mags Portman PrEP Access Fund to enable us to provide PrEP to those who can’t access limited NHS supply or afford it themselves.
“This fund will help stop people in England and Northern Ireland from acquiring HIV, and aims to address inequity in the access of PrEP until there is full local access to PrEP on the NHS in both these countries.
“The fund highlights the inadequacy of the PrEP Trial in England and should be seen as an embarrassment that a charity has had to step in to facilitate access to an effective drug.
“Even with the recently announced additional 3,000 places to the PrEP Impact Trial in England a number of clinics have already filled their allocated places for gay and bisexual men, and we anticipate the trial being completely full for gay and bisexual men by early 2019.
“In Northern Ireland, it’s possible that people who are unable to afford PrEP privately will miss out if access to the pilot is limited or restricted.
“We will continue to work with NHS England and local authorities and really hope that our fund is needed as a short-term stopgap only, before we see routine commissioning of PrEP on the NHS for all who need it.
Dr Mags Portman added: “PrEP is a vital tool in combination prevention and working towards completely ending HIV transmission here in the UK.
“This is something that is within our grasp and as charities like Terrence Higgins Trust continue to work with partners and stakeholders in the sector, will soon be a reality.
“I feel extremely honoured that THT has chosen to mark my own work around PrEP in the name of its fund, and am extremely grateful for the work that they continue to do to ensure people know what PrEP does, how important it is for HIV prevention, how to access and take it.
“This access fund marks the next step in this journey, as the charity continues to work to ensure there are no barriers that prevent people without financial stability to access PrEP, and they should be extremely proud of that.”
The HIV prevention drug has been made available in Scotland since July 2017 and is available via an uncapped study in Wales.
And the Trust is calling for the drug to be made available in all parts of the UK as part of routine commissioning.