NHS England announces support for doubling PrEP trial

A man holds a PrEP (Truvada) pill to prevent acquiring HIV

NHS England announced on Friday (11 January) its support for a request from researchers leading the PrEP IMPACT Trial. The request asks for the trial to double its places. This would give 26,000 people access to the life-saving pill, compared to the former 13,000 people.

The Programme Oversight Board will make the final decision regarding this request next Tuesday (15 January). It is a critical step forward, despite the lack of a final decision.

Over 40 clinics are participating in the trial. Prior to this doubling, they were having to turn away gay and bisexual men.

‘The original 10,000 places were never going to be enough and since it started the trial has already had to be expanded from 10,000 to 13,000 places,’ explained Debbie Laycock, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Terrence Higgins Trust.

She also stressed the importance of the decision to double: ‘Without an expansion, it’s likely all the places for gay and bisexual men will be taken imminently. That coupled with reports of people becoming infected with HIV after being unable to access PrEP via the trial is why we and other HIV campaigners have been shouting about this so loudly.’

People without HIV take PrEP, a single pill, daily. Its continuous intake can help drastically lower the chance of infection.

‘While today’s statement from NHS England is definitely a step in the right direction, the long fight for PrEP to be available on the NHS in England isn’t over yet,’ she added.

PrEP needs to be more accessible

Matthew Hodson, the Executive Director at NAM, also responded to NHS England’s support.

‘Reports suggest that some men who were turned away have subsequently acquired HIV, meaning that they now face a lifetime of HIV treatment,’ he said, reiterating Laycock’s comments.

‘For this reason, I welcome the proposal to double the number of places available on the trial.’

NAM is an organization and charity providing accurate and up-to-date information on HIV/AIDS.

Hodson acknowledged the need for funding to double the trial. He stressed, however, that if England is ‘serious about halting new HIV infections in this country we should ensure that all people at high risk of acquiring HIV should be aware of PrEP, should be offered it and should be able to access it if they so choose’.

Access to healthcare is a critical right for LGBTI people worldwide, and PrEP is an important part of that.

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Half of those living with HIV have experienced discrimination when dating

depression

Half of the people living with HIV (50%) have faced discrimination due to their status, a new survey reveals.

Despite the medical progress that’s been made over the last 30 years, which now means that people with the virus can live as long and healthily as anybody else, the stigma is still alive.

UK charity Terrence Higgins Trust has shed a light on the extent to which discrimination can affect people living with HIV. They surveyed 1,350 people living with HIV in the UK.

54% had experienced discrimination in relationships

On World AIDS Day, celebrated today (1 December), THT highlighted how discrimination impact the lives of those living with HIV.

More than half of those surveyed (54%) had experienced discrimination in dating and relationships.

Furthermore, more than one quarter (27%) had experienced discrimination from friends. Almost one fifth (18%) had experienced discrimination from family members.

34% and 30% have been discriminated against when accessing public healthcare services and in the workplace respectively.

The consequences of such discrimination have affected those living with HIV. 60% has revealed it had impacted their mental health and self-worth.

More than half of the respondents have also revealed they are afraid to talk openly to family members and partners.

The UK has achieved its target

‘We now have the tools to end HIV transmission here in the UK – a combination of regular testing, PrEP, condoms and treatment as prevention – and it’s vital we continue to ensure people are aware of those tools, know how and are able to access them,’ said Ian Green, chief executive of THT.

Leading up to World AIDS Day, Public Health England has revealed the UK has achieved its target of 90:90:90. It did so a whole year ahead of when it originally aimed to do so, that is in 2020.

This means that 92% of people living with HIV in the UK are diagnosed. Moreover, 98% of those people are on treatment and 97% of those have an undetectable viral load, which means they can’t pass on HIV.

‘However, as ending HIV transmissions in the UK becomes a reality,’ continued Green, ‘we must support those living with the virus to thrive, and end the stigma they face. We must not just focus our efforts on reaching zero transmissions, but also zero stigma.’

What’s next?

‘We’re proud that London has achieved the UNAIDS 90:90:90 targets. However, the “Is HIV Sorted?”‘ survey results demonstrate that we cannot be complacent,’ said Professor Jane Anderson. Anderson is co-chair of Fast Track Cities Initiative Leadership Group.

The International Association of Providers of AIDS Care (IAPAC) and Gilead Sciences conducted the survey.

A significant proportion of respondents (71% in the UK, 67% in London) would not feel comfortable dating someone who is living with HIV.

Moreover, one-fifth (22%) of respondents would not feel comfortable working with a person living with HIV. Nearly half of those surveyed (45% in the UK, 43% in London) believe that PLHIV should not work as healthcare professionals.

While many are still unaware of about the realities of HIV treatment and secondary transmission, only 41% of respondents across the UK believe that HIV-related stigma is ‘a thing of the past’ in the UK.

‘It is evident from this data that we must not allow HIV to be deprioritized,’ continued Professor Anderson.

‘Education and awareness-raising efforts across the UK must be prioritized to ensure the public are well informed about HIV and understand the issue of HIV-related stigma so we can work together to tackle the significant challenges that still remain in HIV prevention, diagnosis, and care.’

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Prince Harry wants you to help ‘save lives’ by getting tested for HIV

Prince Harry at the Invictus Games in 2017

Prince Harry has shared an important message in a video marking the start of National HIV Testing Week in the UK.

Kicking off today (17 November) and running until the 23 November, National HIV Testing Week is an opportunity to get tested and encourage others to do the same. No stigma attached.

That is why Prince Harry teamed up with Terrence Higgins Trust, the UK’s leading HIV and sexual health charity, to prompt everyone to get tested.

HIV diagnoses have dropped in the UK

‘We can be the generation to finally bring an end to HIV,’ Prince Harry said in the video message.

The Duke of Sussex explained HIV diagnoses have dropped by 28% in the last year in the UK. This is an encouraging result, but there is still a lot to do in order to stop HIV.

He highlights that one in eight people living with the virus in the UK are unaware they have the virus.

Furthermore, four in ten people living with HIV are diagnosed too late.

Getting tested for HIV is like protecting yourself from cold and flu

Taking a simple test can prevent late diagnoses and untimely deaths, says Prince Harry.

‘Taking an HIV test is something to be proud of, not something to be ashamed or embarrassed about,’ he says.

‘As much as you protect yourself at this time of year from illnesses and viruses like cold and flu, you can also protect your health by taking an HIV test’.

Prince Harry got tested in 2016

Prince Harry made headlines when he allowed himself to be filmed taking at HIV test at a sexual health clinic in London earlier this month

Prince Harry made headlines when he took an HIV test at a sexual health clinic in London two years ago.

He recalled his own experience getting tested two years ago. He said it was easy and that results came back just in a few minutes.

‘There is still too much stigma, which is stopping so many of us from getting a simple, quick and easy test,’ he also says.

‘We won’t bring an end to the Human Immunodeficiency Virus until testing is seen as completely normal and accessible for everyone.’

Watch the full video below:

How to find out your HIV status

During National HIV Testing Week, charities like Terrence Higgins Trust will offer free HIV testing. Find out where to test locally via startswithme.org.uk.

Alternatively, you can order a free HIV postal test to test yourself in the privacy of your own home.

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